Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Flow of Love

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)
Remember that there are two parts to God’s commandment (1 John 3:23):
1. Love God by believing on the name of His Son Jesus Christ.
2. Love one another.

In the first part of chapter 4, John deals with the first part of that commandment, discerning the of truth and the spirit or error on the basis the Lord Jesus Christ, His humanity as well as His divinity. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God. Any spirit that denies this confession is not of God (1 John 4:2-3).

Now John is addressing the second part of the commandment. “Beloved, let us love one another.” Here in the space of six words, he presents us with two instances of love. First, there is his love for those to whom he is writing, the love of a father for his children. Second, there is the love he exhorts them to have for one another. Why? Because love is of God. John then gives us a third instance of love, and it is the most important one, for it identifies the source of all love — God.

This has practical ramifications, for John says, “He who does not love, does not know God.” This knowledge of God which John talks so much about is not only an intimate experience of God, and the discerning between truth and error, it is also a knowledge that transforms.

Before we go further, note that John is not here disregarding faith in the name of Jesus Christ as the basis of knowing God. Rather, he is assuming it, since he has just written about the importance of that very thing. But it is not enough to say, “I love, therefore I know God,” because love must be defined.

John’s point is this: It is incongruent for someone to say that he knows God if he does not practice love. That is, it does not jibe. Why? Not only because love is of God, but more importantly because God is love.

Love is more than an attribute of God which can be described by an adjective (i.e., God is loving). It is part of God’s very essence — who He is — described by love as a noun and demonstrated by love as a verb. There are only a few instances where God is spoken of in such crisp, ontological terms: God is Spirit, God is a consuming fire, God is love.

“God is love” not only tells us about who God is, but also tells us why God does what He does. He acts in love, grace and mercy precisely because that is what He is. He would be going against Himself to act in any other way.

God’s love is transforming, so that, a person who does not love, really has not yet come to know God, to have intimate revelation of who God is and what He is like.

So, John tells us that love is of God and that God is love. Then he goes on to define love even closer, to show what love looks like on the ground, “on all fours.”
In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)
Here we see that John has not departed at all from the first part of the commandment (believe on the name of Jesus Christ), because when he starts talking about love, we discover that it is defined for us by what the Lord Jesus Christ has done.

This is God’s love in action — made known, manifested, revealed, defined — God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him. It is the Gospel in a nutshell, the essence of life to all who believe it and receive Him, even in the midst of a world that has fallen into death.

God is love, and it is the very nature of love to give and to serve. Giving and serving are not works which are alien to God, works which He assumes on a temporary basis for strategic purposes. No, they are native to God, the outworking of who and what He really is.

It is what I call the “algebra of love”: God is love. Love gives and serves. Every true instance of loving, giving and serving ultimately traces back to God, for “love is of God.”

Love is of God and not of us, at least not in a primary way. God always takes the initiative. As John defines it for us, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us.” Our love is a response to God’s love made know to us.

God first loved us and sent His Son to be the “propitiation for our sins.” God’s love solved the problem of sin for us, not in a theoretical way, but in a very real way. God’s love did not just provide a cover for sin, papering it over in an “out of sight, out of mind” sort of way.

There must be some actual basis for dealing with sin. A debt cannot be forgiven without the cost being borne by the forgiver. So God, in His love, has dealt with the sin of the world by directing His wrath on sin fully toward the Lord Jesus Christ, who took our sin and was nailed with it to the Cross.

So God bore the cost of forgiveness of sin by giving His Son. Jesus bore the cost by giving His life. All this has been done for you and me out of love. So John concludes this matter with the perfect logic of love:
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11)
Once again we discover that it is all about God. Even love is all about God because it is the love of God with which we love one another, and even love God Himself. Love comes from God and returns to God in a perfect circle.

Father, give us more revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, and how You made Your love known to us through Him, so that we may love You more perfectly by trusting Him more fully, and that we flow with Your love to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.