Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God,
God abides in him, and he in God. We have come
to know and have believed the love which God
has for us. God is love, and the one who abides
in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.1 John 4:15–21
Sunday’s Bible reading is 1 John 4–5. John reverberates with truth and love, and his great theme of love is emphasized in chapters 3–4. In fact, in chapter 4 he uses the word love more often than in any other chapter. This is a letter we need to take to heart and live out. John has strong words to say about what love or the lack of it reveals about who we are. I want to go back a minute and pull out some verses from 1 John 3.
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.1 John 3:16–18
1 John is a letter that women need to study, for we have gotten so far away from the reality of these words. I have seen such coldness among Christian women over the past fifteen years. There are certainly those who love in deed and truth, but they are far outnumbered by those who love only with words.Women in the church far too often judge and lecture. They break the bruised reed, and they put out the dimly burning wick. Too frequently women whose husbands are leaders in the church or who have been blessed financially assume the mantle of Job’s comforters as if God’s blessing or His allowing of suffering is always linked to the quality of someone’s Christian life. The sin of partiality is rampant in our churches. Women who lead Bible studies or organize a woman’s group far too often lack love for those whom they teach or lead. They’re busy being in charge, unable or unwilling to do the work of love to understand the mind and the needs of other women.
I remember one summer teaching a Bible study to a group of women who had deep needs and big problems. Except for one women, those women with stable lives and families were too busy to come. We studied and shared and prayed, and we saw God answer many prayers that summer. The last evening of the study I think two elder’s wives and a deacon’s wife came for the conclusion. I will never forget their surprise at hearing what God had been doing in our lives. That was both sad and ironic—as if God would be absent and not check in with his children who had tattered lives. Over and over again I have seen that the women who have so much to give, give the least. The women who have been slammed by life are the ones who give, and give again. Dear sisters, these things ought not to be!
The Jesus Movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s had numerous flaws, but there were three things I saw that marked the lives of many I knew: a hunger for the Word of God, a desire to understand it and live it, and a love for Christ and our brothers and sisters—a love that laid down its life and shared its goods—a love of deed and truth. Oh, yes, and a joy that was enough to raise the roof.
Francis Schaeffer said the love of Christians for one another is The Mark of the Christian, and in the book he wrote by that name he called John 17:21, The Final Apologetic. This is the apologetic given by Christ Himself to all peoples and for all times. Questions asked of Christians may change according to the issues of the day, but our love remains the mark that we are His disciples, and it remains the final apologetic to the world that Jesus was, in fact, sent by God, and that God, in fact, loves those who have believed in Jesus. Our love for each other proclaims to all, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…” Our love for each other proclaims to all, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ…”
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. . . .And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.1 John 4:7–8, 20
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