This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on September 4th, 2011. To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click on this link – 1Jn 4.
I John 4:7-12 GOD’S LOVE AND OURS 9/4/2011
In the Scripture we read today, the apostle John, a pastor trying to help a young church see what was most important, urges Christians to love each other in self-sacrificing ways. He reminds us that God’s love is the the pattern and the fuel of ours.
God’s Love Shows Us What Love Really Means When John encourages Christians to love each other, he starts at the source. Love comes from God (verse 7). God is the source and power-supply for love.
We have to be careful when we speak of “love,” since that word is meant in so many different ways today, and since our culture often misunderstands what love is. But for John, as for the rest of the Bible’s writers, love is to imitate a very specific pattern: God’s self-sacrificial, generous action on our behalf. “In this was God’s love shown among us: that God sent his one-and-only Son into the world….God loved us first, and sent his Son to cover our sins.” That’s the template for love—the highest example John can think of. According to this pattern, love seeks the good of others, even at a cost to the lover. It is, as Paul says in I Corinthians 13, “unselfish and doesn’t seek its own advantage.” Love takes the initiative, reaching out to the other person before he or she is fully lovable. Love isn’t just a warm feeling toward someone else (though it can include that), or a nice, polite demeanor (though we can show it by politeness and good manners).
When we love people, we don’t pretend they are perfect. We may sometimes need to correct them or even oppose them (Leviticus 19:17-18; Proverbs 27:5-6). That’s because love is purposeful, and is most concerned for the other person’s good—as God is concerned for our good (that’s why God reached out to us…not just treating us nicely without a purpose, and not loving us with the aim of gaining greater dominance over us, but in order to give us life).
Our Love is a Sign That We Truly Know God If someone continually refuses to show this kind of love, that person’s claim to know God is called into question—even if he or she does many other good things or has good qualities, or is a pastor or Bible teacher or is respected (verse 8). Throughout the New Testament, the various writers point us to Jesus’ teaching that we will know ourselves and others to be true disciples, not merely by words or by religious show, but by loving deeds (I Cor. 13:1-3; James 2:15-17; Matt. 7:15-16). John even makes the shocking claim here (verse 12) that people can only see God in our love. Did you catch that? Our love, or lack of it, shows others a loving or hating or compassionate or uncaring God. Does this standard of love make us a little bit uncomfortable? It probably should. It should make us ask ourselves how our love matches up with what we claim.
We Live and Love, Not on Our Own, But Through Christ We know that we often fail to love in this active, challenging way. Our “love” is often selfish and manipulative. But our sinful failure to love has been covered by Christ who gave his life for us (verse 10b; also I John 2:1-2). The cross’s display of love highlights defective love that we too often display…but more than that, it reminds us that God has overcome our sin and restored our relationship with him. In the person of Jesus, God absorbed sin’s ugliness and its punishment, and declared us free from them.
God not only offers forgiveness for our failure to love. He also gives us the strength to love better. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn us, or to hand us a new and higher standard to pursue on our own. The Son came into the world “so that we might live through him” (verse 9). That is so important to remember! Christ not only shows us how to love & serve others; he makes us more able to do so.. The Spirit of Christ is—slowly and mysteriously—making us more like our loving God. We should be asking God, the source of love, the perfectly loving One, to be making our hearts and hands more loving. And as we try to navigate love’s complexities and hardships, as we succeed and fail at loving strangers and our neighbors, we can rely (verse 16) on God’s powerful love which holds us.
————————————————————————————————- Richard L. Strauss, commenting on the verse “God is love,” says: “Love is God’s nature. It is not merely a friendly attitude He projects. It is the essence of His being. He is always going to act toward us in love because He cannot do otherwise. Love is the way He is.”