The eternal God loves us in three tenses: past, present and future – for He is the same yesterday today and forever. It is a divine love that cannot be compared with the inadequate love of fallen man, but is a love so penetrating, that He sent the unique, and only begotten Son of His love to be the propitiation for our sins.
That single act of the Father should stagger us to the core of our being… that our God sent Christ as a gift of His grace… to be made the penultimate curse for us – so that, for the sake of love we might be made the righteousness of God, in Him.
But having redeemed us He sent His Holy Spirit to abide in our heart and day by day, He seeks to transform us from ugly, bitter, antagonistic sinners into good, obedient and mature children of God, having the same, godly nature as the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself.
But His love extends into the never-ending, eternal future, for no eye has seen, nor ear has heard – nor has it entered into the imagination of man the glories that God has prepared for those who love Him. Since the eternal God loves us in three, staggering tenses – the standard set, we ought also to love one another.
1 John 4:7-21 English Standard Version
God Is Love
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot[a] love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
Today’s passage is all about love. The first couple of things that probably pop into your mind when you hear “love” likely involve romance, dating, marriage, I know because it did for me the very first time, I remember reading the text!
Today, we will be devoting our time to talking about a love that is much greater, very much stronger, and much more powerful than any love we could possibly conjure up or imagine we can bound within our human limits. The answer to “What kind of standard of love is that?” God because God is love, so God’s love.
The New Covenant text for today explores the scope of God’s love and the vast implications of it: how that love was presented to us, how it was displayed in Jesus Christ, and how that standard of love both transforms and changes us.
A short caveat: for the organizational purposes of exploring these three topics, the verses referenced in this devotional offering might be a bit out of order, so just be aware of that. Man’s boundaries all come back to the center who is God!
How the standard of God’s love is presented to us
The first thing I wanted to take a look at today is how this beloved passage from 1 John answers for us the question of “How is/was God’s love presented to us?”
There are two verses in particular which begin to address that question today:
1 John 4:10Authorized (King James) Version
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
1 John 4:19Authorized (King James) Version
19 We love him, because he first loved us.
What is so special about these two verses?
They both show the initiative of God. Who loved first? God loved first. This isn’t meant to be a dive into any meaningful discourse or theological discussion on predestination or whatever, but to really take a well-considered look at the initiative that God takes in setting before us, His children, his standard of love.
And this exercise of personal initiative is significant, because it shows reveals to us God is in no identifiable way shape or form passive. God does not just sit back and twiddle His thumbs and leave us alone to figure this sin problem out, but rather, He takes and is taking an indescribably active role in the redemption of his children. Let’s let our fingers wander back to the first couple of the books of the Bible and bring to remembrance some of the events and characters there.
The Creation Story. Who initiates it? Who speaks creation into being? God!
Noah and the ark. Who initiates there? It was God!
Abraham and his covenant. Who initiates there? Again, it was God!
Moses and the burning bush. Who initiates there? Once again, God!
And once we realize this pattern in the Old Testament of God initiating and taking an unimaginably active role, we can recognize that it doesn’t end there. As we keep thumbing through the pages, God’s undeniably active role continues in the sweep towards the sacrificial work of Jesus on the cross unto Revelation.
How God’s love was displayed through Christ Jesus
And now, with God’s initiative in mind, let us advance our thoughts into and unto the second topic. We are able to allow our souls to genuinely and deeply appreciate how God displays his love through Jesus. Let’s take a look at our text:
1 John 4:9-10 Authorized (King James) Version
9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
How was God’s love displayed and made known to us?
Through the death through which Jesus paid, and in return, the life that was given to us. His atoning death has led to the forgiveness of our sin. But what makes that love so grand and almost baffling? It’s that God is not obligated to send Jesus for the forgiveness of sin, he does not have to do it, but he does so willingly. He takes the divine initiative and unconditionally loves us first, even if it is for a people that do not––and may not–– ever, ever, ever love him back.
God’s standard of unconditional love inevitably transforms and changes us all
The final thought I wanted to take a look at regarding this passage is how God’s love transforms and changes us. At the beginning of this post, I had mentioned how powerful God’s love is, and this entire passage really brings that into focus:
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (1 John 4:8 AKJV)
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:11-12 AKJV)
17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:17-18 AKJV)
20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21 And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also. (1 John 4:20-21 AKJV)
Again, God’s love is never a passive love. And in that same way, God’s love does not act passively in us. It drives us, it transforms, and it changes us. It drives us to love one another (v.11), to care for our brothers and sisters (vv. 20-21), gives us confidence towards God even in judgement (vv. 17-18), and transforms us to be more like Christ (v. 17).
As God was willing to take and exercise His divine initiative to love and sacrifice His ONLY Son, for these people, surely, I can go out of my way to love them too.
God’s love does not, has never and will never act the least bit passively in us. It constantly and continuously drives us, it transforms, and it 1000% changes us. God’s love is inevitable! It never changes! It can never change because our God never changes. God’s love is limitless! His love is not bound by our standards! His love can never be bound up or be held in bondage by frail human standards! These thoughts ought to just blow our minds outside the bounds of what we will tightly tape, wrap up securely inside gift boxes titled “impossible and possible.”
With what I fervently pray is a much better understanding today of how God exercises initiative in his love, how can we, today, take initiative in our love?
What does it look like to take initiative to love a friend in a mental health crisis? A difficult to talk to neighbor. A family member with different political views?
Maybe it is something “smaller,” like asking and then listening well to how someone’s been doing. Or maybe it’s something a bit bigger, like apologizing to someone, asking for their forgiveness from a mistake which caused them grief.
Regardless, we do not love because it’s something we have to do, or because we are obligated to do, but because God’s love drives us to do it. As much or as little as we follow Jesus, we serve a loving God who decided to take initiative to give His one and only Son as a “paid in full” ransom in exchange for many. And that should charge, change us, and transform us, to take some initiative of our own.
The only questions and answers we need to give a maximum accounting unto God for is: What did that God driven, Jesus loved, Holy Spirit inspired initiative look like? Did we recognize the divine nature of it? Were we obedient unto it or we all too deeply living and loving from deep inside our all too typical passivity?
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, let us now collectively gather as the Body of Christ, God’s Ecclesia, in some prayer.
Gracious God, you give us the Word that turns us again and again to you. You give us Jesus who is the greatest manifestation of your word, your love and your purpose. Help us to live fully as baptized people, those grafted into Jesus the branch, the crucified and risen One. God of the risen Jesus, hear our prayer.
God of all dominion and power, God of love; we can love only because you first loved us. Empower us by your Holy Spirit to be and do the same. When we rest in your love, fear—though present—cannot overpower us. Help us to rest there always. God of the risen Jesus, hear our prayer. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen