1 John 4:7-11
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
George Matheson was fifteen years old when he was told that he was losing his eyesight and instead of giving up he continued with his plans to enroll in the University of Glasgow. His determination lead to his graduation at age nineteen and the pursuit of ministry as he declared that he would go on to do graduate studies in theology. At this time George was engaged until his fiancée learned that he was going blind and that there was nothing the doctors could do. She broke off their engagement and returned his ring telling him that she could not go through life with a blind man. George pressed faithfully on with his studies even though his heart was broken by the pain of rejection and he lost his sight later that year at age twenty. Yet his sisters stood beside him, willing to learning Greek and Hebrew in their effort to assist him in his studies so he graduated and become a preacher. George never did marry but some twenty years later as a well-loved preacher in Scotland his sister came to him announcing her engagement. He rejoiced with her even though he had been rejected, because he consoled himself in God’s love which is never limited, never conditional, never retracted, and never uncertain. Out of this experience on the evening of his sister’s marriage he wrote the hymn,” O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go”, which he called the fruit of his suffering and which he wrote in five minutes.
O love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths it flow
May richer, fuller be.
Human love is very uncertain and when it is retracted we all experience the pain of rejection, like George Matheson we need to learn to lean on and trust God’s perfect love. His love is both our hope and our goal, being a Christian means that we learn to love like Him. John, the one who was called the disciple who Jesus loved, reveals to us:
- The Standard of Love
In this passage John gives us the basics of the Christian life LOVE ONE ANOTHER. God’s standard for us is that we are to love one another, which sounds easy enough as long as we have positive feelings for those around us. Yet positive feelings for others is not what it says and to understand what it means to love one another we have to understand what the word love really means. There are three words in Greek which are translated as love, the first word is Phileo, which means brotherly love or friendship. This is the first level of love, as you get to know someone, you enjoy being around them and you form a friendship. The second word is Eros which is the word for romantic love. Imagine a boy and a girl who have been friends, Phileo love, when one day the boy says to the girl “I like you”. She says “I know, I like you too” to which he replies, “No, I mean I REALLY LIKE you”. “Oh” she says as she finally gets the message that he has moved from Phileo love to Eros love. The third word is Agape and this is the deepest level of love for it means sacrificial love. Imagine that the boy and girl eventually get married and all is perfect until one day when they have a big fight. At this point she does not love him as a friend and certainly not romantically but here enters Agape love. Agape love is not an emotion but a decision, it is an act of the will. As they reach out in Agape love it draws them back together to work through their problems and eventually the relationship can be restored. God does not just call us to love but gives us a standard to shoot for. His command to love one another is sacrificial and that means that we will love others even when it costs us. It means we love people who are different than us, even those that our society deems unlovely.
- The Symbol of Love
Jesus did not tell us to do something that He was unwilling to do Himself, He practiced what He preached. He gave us the ultimate example to follow so that we would truly understand what love really looked like. There is more than just a friendship love that is revealed to us through the cross, instead we see a sacrificial love modeled for us. It was a love that cost Him and He held nothing back as He gave himself completely for us.
- The Show of Love
Let me ask you a simple question “do you love the people around you?” Notice that I didn’t ask if you liked them, Phileo love or if you are sexually attracted to them, Eros love. Do you love them the way Jesus loves you? Do you accept them, want what is best for them, and would you give of yourself for them? The love of God demands a change in our lives, we must love one another out of the love we have received through Christ. Jesus’ death was not the result of jealous Jews or hard-hearted Romans, it was the result of a loving God who saw there was no other way to save me. The show of love in my life will be the result of the overflow of His love through me. He has poured out His love and it can’t be contained so it must spill out like a cascading waterfall that flows over and over bringing life giving love. Do you have an overflowing love? As Christians, we will either live life from a loving relationship with God that spills over into all our relationships, or we will live on empty and have nothing to offer those around us. In order to live life out of the overflow of our relationship with God, we must connect with Him and reflect on the depths of His love regularly and love one another readily.