1 John 4:11-12 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
The first letter of John blows me out of the water every time I read it. There is so much vital, deep truth in it that it speaks to me afresh again and again and again. Here, John has been talking about God’s incredible love for us, but then he turns around and applies that to our own love for each other. It is demonstrably true that being aware that we are loved makes it easier for us to love others. That’s why in a sense, a husband and wife can “feed off of” each other’s love in a beautiful recursive cycle. Sadly, with differing “love languages” that all too often doesn’t happen, because the love doesn’t transmit. That said, here we’re talking about a much bigger issue. The better we grasp God’s love for us, the more readily we will love each other. Then John says something that immediately brings to mind what Jesus said to Philip in the Upper Room: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9) God is invisible, and at this point Jesus isn’t visible to our physical eyes, but if we love each other as God loves us, then Jesus is manifested in and through us for the world to see. It’s again as Jesus said: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) Sadly, some churches are known for quarrels and backbiting. Jesus isn’t very visible there! One of the major themes of the Bible is that those who know God are to represent Him to those who don’t yet know Him. That can only happen when we allow His love to flow through us to those around us.
I have a number of very personal illustrations of this truth, but one I frequently mention in counseling couples about parenting involves my two grandsons. They are less than two years apart, so when I first met the older one (they live in the US, and we in Japan) he was 14 months old, and his brother was already on the way. He was a supremely happy child, and about the third day of our stay I found the reason why. He did something for which he had been disciplined previously, and when his mother noticed it she called him down firmly and asked her mother (my wife) to slap his hand. He proceeded to extend his own left hand and slap it with his right! He was such a happy child because, with appropriate boundaries set by discipline, he had full assurance that he was loved. Often a first child will be very resentful of the second, but when his brother arrived, no one was more delighted. Secure in his parents’ love, it seemed totally natural to him that his brother would be loved as well. He will shortly be a teenager, but he is still a very well-adjusted, loving person. Even closer to home, I think my wife’s and my relationship is one of the most powerful testimonies we have. People are regularly in awe of it, and we have actually had women who were not so loving to their husbands leave the church because they couldn’t stand the contrast, and were self-condemned. The Church, though made up of imperfect people, is still to be a reflection of a perfect God. We certainly can’t do it on our own, but God is able to do it in and through us.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the training You give us regularly with “unlovable” people! Help us open up more and more to Your love to allow it to flow through us unhindered. May indeed Your name be acknowledged as holy and Your kingdom come as Your will is done, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!