7 Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. 8 The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. 10 This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins.
11 Dear friends, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God remains in us and his love is made perfect in us.
As John wrote about how Christians treat one another, he likely thought about himself and Jesus' other disciples. They jockeyed for position, and got angry with one another at times (cf. Mark 10:35-45). Over time, Jesus re-shaped their thoughts and actions. John knew that loving others with Christ’s love doesn’t spring from a naturally warm human disposition. It goes much deeper than just being “nice.” This kind of active love comes from the heart of the God of the universe. God loves us—that is the reason that we love.
Dear God, you ARE love—what an amazing, mind-stretching truth. You know that it’s not quite as natural for me to love. Please keep loving me as I stretch and grow in my ability to reflect your love to others. Amen.
Jesus asked His followers to treat others the way He did. As a family, discuss your responses to each of these scenarios:
Talk together about ways to be Christ-like in each of these situations. This week ask each other, “How did you follow Jesus today? Did you ignore an opportunity to serve? How can you do a better job being kind to others tomorrow?” Pray together, asking God to help you be faithful follower of Jesus.
(With a new sanctuary opening in just three weeks, things are hectic at the church communications office. Since Cathy Bien was unable to write, we offer for your inspiration a post that Dr. Amy Oden, Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality at Saint Paul School of Theology at OCU, wrote in November, 2014.)
“No one has ever seen God,” (1 John 4:12) but we all have pictures in our heads, whether we want them or not, about what God looks like. For many of us, the picture of God is pretty specific, an old white man with white hair and a beard, usually up in the clouds somewhere. At least that is often the picture many of us start out with as kids. Yet as we grow up, our childhood picture of God seems, well, childish. As young adults, we can’t buy any longer the idea of a God who is a kindly old man in the clouds. The world is too big, and our lives are too messy for that to make sense. But we don’t replace that picture with anything else, leaving us sort of stuck with this picture of God that doesn’t really work for our real lives. (Click here to check out the great song about this by Michael Gungor.)
As I young adult, I struggled to find a view of God that seemed real. I had a vague idea about God, but nothing very concrete. I knew the “old man on a cloud” wasn’t it, but I didn’t know what was. It helped once I could admit this out loud to some trusted friends. These wise Christians encouraged me to experiment with lots of images – mother, father, friend, lover, creator, rock, shepherd. They also cautioned me always to remember that these images are not actually God. Words and images can give me doorways to picture God, but God is always bigger than any one image. That began a journey that has lasted my whole life.
These verses from 1 John help guide me on this journey of knowing God. The rest of verse 12 goes on to say, “If we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” Any picture of God we have in our minds, then, must be rooted in God’s love. We come to know God through the people who love us, who make God’s love real to us. So many people have loved me, becoming God’s hands and feet. God became real to me through that love. God becomes real to others through your love.
How do you picture God? Has it changed through the seasons of your life? These days, I find that I experience God most often as Presence, and while that is not exactly a concrete image, it gives a name to the One who knows me better than I know myself. “No one has seen God,” yet each of us pictures this awesome God in different ways. Even more than our picture of God, it is through our love for others – our families and strangers, our near neighbors and far neighbors-- that God makes a home in us.
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