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1 John 4:7-21



Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. This is love: not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 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.

(verses 7-12)

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“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us!” That’s what John said in the last chapter. We yearn for that future day when we will finally see him face to face and understand the full reality of his love. In the meantime, we meditate on the scriptures, we converse with him in prayer, we open our hearts to his presence, we respond to his promptings, and we receive his Spirit’s filling.


And we love one another. That’s the intent of this present passage. What John gives us here is an interweaving of two themes: God loving us and us loving one another. Each gives expression to the other.


Right in the centre of this passage is the clear sighting of God’s own love: it comes in the sacrifice of his Son, paying the price for our sins. Once again, the word that is used is “propitiation”(verse 10, as in 1 John 2:2), a sacrifice that turns aside the just wrath of God toward our sin. What’s so amazing about this is that God himself is the one who initiates it. He’s the one offended, the one who’s wrath has been stirred against sin. Yet he chooses to take the offense upon himself. He goes out of his way to pay the price, to absorb the cost, and to deal with all the sin so that wrath is satisfied. Amazing. “How great is the love!”


Based on this love of God for us, John starts the passage by urging us to love others. If we’ve been born of God and if we truly know God, then we will be those who “love one another” – it’s the natural outflow. If, in fact, we don’t love those around us, we should question whether we really know God at all. The point is simple. He loves. If we know him and are being transformed into his likeness, we’ll love, too. Not perfectly. Maybe not yet as much as the next guy. But more than we did – more other-focused, less self-centred, more like Christ.


Indeed, not only is this the natural (or, more truly, supernatural!) outflow of God’s love in us, but it is also one of the means by which we truly experience, and more deeply grasp, that love. John says, “if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” There is something about the activity of loving others that allows us to more truly live in the very centre of the love God himself has poured out in us.


John tells us that in the Upper Room before the betrayal, Jesus showed his disciples “the full extent of his love” (John 13:1). That display came via a humble, down-to-earth, hands-on act of service. As he washed feet, the disciples experienced self-sacrificing love, up close and personal. Having finished the washing, Jesus said, Go and do likewise. It was an invitation to step more deeply into relationship with him – more deeply into the full extent of his love – by loving others.


Later Jesus would nail it home: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). Loving as Jesus loved means experiencing his love from the inside out. “If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”


So, God has loved us. We are to love one another. As we do, we live more fully in the love God himself has for us. We apprehend more of his love. We then love others. And on and on and on.

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Father, you have so loved me. Thank you. Equip me, by your love and by your Spirit, to love like Jesus. May I grow in love as I do. To your glory.

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Reflect:

Who can you “love like Jesus” today? How? When? What?

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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