1 John 4:17-21 The Message
To Love, to Be Loved
17-18 God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.
19 We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.
20-21 If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.
The Word of God for the Children of God.
Adeste Fideles! Laeti Triumphantes! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.
Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.
Sometimes, one too many times, believing God loves us so deeply can be hard.
When we mess up, we make bad choices, it can be difficult to believe God cares.
We are likely to ask of ourselves “why should God care about me anyway, I know what I have done, surely God knows what I have done, so why should He love me?”
The thing of it is – we are only likely to be asking this of ourselves, to ourselves.
In the real world we encounter today, we do not openly express such thoughts in an outward manner – we are not likely to be shouting this on the city streets.
We will be internalizing these ideas, blasting them against the walls of our souls until even the most ardent believer will find themselves poking very substantial holes, if not trying to dig vast canyons into their steadfast and immovable faith.
When we see all our failures and flaws we can often think that we’re unlovable.
Vulnerability overtakes us – we can’t help it nor can we seen to slow it or stop it.
However, in the midst of all our failures and shortcomings, and sudden onsets of unconquerable vulnerabilities – guess what – God chooses to love us anyway!
God’s love for us should energize us to love other people.
When we focus on all God has done for us, it makes loving other people easier.
God’s love is empowering.
God’s love is an overcoming love.
It gives us the strength and motivation to truly love others.
So when you have those onset moments when you struggle with vulnerability, struggle with loving a “someone” who is less than lovable (including yourself), realize that you have got the power to yet do “love” because God loved you first.
When you were your own first and worst enemy, when you were convinced that didn’t deserve anybody’s “first love” and were an enemy of God, God loved you.
That knowledge gives you first burst of knowing what you need to love others.
What Does the Word of God Say of “First Loves?”
The phrase evokes powerful feelings.
For many this phrase evokes the image of a newborn baby just placed on its mothers chest immediately after birth and the two make their “first contact.”
For some this phrase evokes the image of a new father looking at their very first newborn child for the very first time, and all the love in his world becomes real.
For many, the term conjures images of a first crush when a toddler recognizes mom for the first time or as a teenager, or impressions of “love at first sight.”
But first love is a much more intimate concept than simply a first recognition of of mom or dad or any raging hormones and pictures of pulsing cartoon hearts.
It’s God, Himself.
1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love.
This means that any worldly love falls short of the true definition.
Think about the most dynamic couples, real or fictional, that are well known throughout history—Romeo and Juliet, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Billy and Ruth Graham, President Jimmy and, Rosalynn Carter to name a few.
Now think about current celebrity match-ups in the media that make you sort of swoon – Bob and Betty Hope, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Fred Astaire and the incomparable Ginger Rogers, Humphry Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
As romantic as any of those might seem right now, those examples aren’t true love.
Without God involved in the process, without that cord of three strands that is not so easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12), no human relationship could ever be real love – it will always and forever “miss the mark.”
1 Corinthians 13, known as the “love chapter,” states that “faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
I believe it’s important to note the greatest of these character traits only comes from God!
He is the source of love—not romance novels, not sonnets and poetry, and certainly not Hollywood.
Here are three things the Word of God reveals to each of us about “first loves.”
1. God Loved Us First
Everything springs from this.
Such a beautiful message of hope is found in 1 John 4:19.
“We love, because He first loved us.”
We don’t love because we manage to “dig deep down” and “conjure up our best effort”—no, we love because God put it in us first, via the Holy Spirit, to do so.
Any desires toward love, holiness, purity, etc. toward others or toward the Lord only come from God.
We are incapable of love on our own—yet we love because God first loved us.
What a relief!
Don’t you feel the burden rolling off your shoulders?
Love is a gift from God, who is love Himself—Who became love in the flesh through Jesus Christ, who came to “deliver us from the domain of darkness and transfer us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13).
“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” (John 15:16)
Let the depth of this truth saturate your weary and vulnerable soul… let it seep in, let it comfort you and hug you with all the coziness of your favorite quilt.
You are held.
You are loved. A
nd it has nothing to do with you or what you bring to the table, and everything to do with the God who created you, who knew you from before the foundations of time (Jeremiah 1:5), planned every one of your days way long before you were even in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:16).
2. We Often Leave Our First Love (GOD)
As comforting as it is to sit and bask in the reality of God’s love for us, we must also acknowledge and recognize the sobering concept of leaving our first love.
“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4)
Even as believers, we are not immune to apathy.
Sometimes, we lose our fervor and passion for the things of the Lord.
When we are busy catering to our sin rather than confessing it, we are blocking communication with the Holy Spirit.
Conviction becomes fewer and farther between.
We grow farther away from Christ.
We stop praying, we stop reading and studying the Word, disciplining our lives and start listening to the lies that we can never love or worse—be loved—again.
Rather than heeding the dark deceptions from the enemy, we should recognize our behavior, turn, and repent.
Do we have unconfessed sin in your life?
Admit it already.
God already knows.
Avoiding prayer will only keep you feeling more and more disconnected, leaving ample room for the enemy to continue to tempt you.
There have been times in my Christian walk where it felt like my prayers hit the ceiling and stopped and splattered there and it made me prone to not pray at all.
In those times, the only prayer we need is “Lord, give me the want to want to.”
Rather than hide in our vulnerability and shame when we’re “prone to wander” and aren’t feeling a desire toward the things of God, we must shine truth on those dark thoughts, bring them to the light, simply ask for God’s desires again.
The Holy Spirit is infinitely more than capable of filling us back up.
In my experience, believers tend to occasionally disregard various disciplines of the faith because “that’s not what saves them.”
I agree—it’s not.
But I also realize when we only go through the motions of daily Bible reading, daily prayer, consistent fellowship with the church, we’re more prone to stay in communion with the Holy Spirit and on the right path in our Christian walk.
Sometimes, sitting down with the Word of God despite “not wanting to” will be exactly what’s needed to bring forth the desire.
Actions often breed feelings, and this is one of the greatest offenses we have against spiritual warfare.
The Word of God is our sword!
Ephesians 6:17 says, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart…” (Hebrews 4:12)
Even when we don’t feel like it—maybe especially when we don’t feel like it—pick up your sword anyway and start swinging it against your vulnerabilities.
Psalm 84: 8-9 The Message
8-9 God-of-the-Angel-Armies, listen:
O God of Jacob, open your ears—I’m praying!
Look at our shields, glistening in the sun,
our faces, shining with your gracious anointing.
Standing tall, Steadfast and Immovable, Protect and Fight for your first love.
3. We’re to Stay with Our Second “First Love”
“Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice with the wife of your youth.” (Proverbs 5:18)
Christ is and should always be our first love.
But on earth, we are granted the blessing of marriage between a man and a woman (that won’t be recognized in heaven –Mark 10:5-9) that reflects the union of Christ and His bride—the church.
It’s a holy and sacred covenant before the Lord himself, because it reflects His relationship with His beloved.
To participate in that reflection is a gift and an honor.
It’s not to be taken lightly.
Unfortunately, in our current culture, marriage today is often considered to be “open to man’s socio-cultural interpretation” or an extreme version of dating, where choices of divorce are made as recklessly as high schoolers speed dating.
Mark 10:9 says, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
This verse does not mean that all divorce is forbidden.
There are unfortunately circumstances of abandonment where spouses didn’t have a choice (Malachi 2:16), or marriages of physical abuse and unrepentant adultery (Matthew 5:31-32), the Bible allows for the dissolving of a marriage.
It’s impossibly painful to those involved and indescribably messy, regardless of the circumstances, and every story is unique to the person who then carries it.
But far too often, marriages dissolve solely for the lack of commitment and desire to keep them going—lack of reverence for the covenant they represent.
“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2)
“Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” (Revelation 19:7-8)
While our ultimate first love is the Lord, our first love on earth—or what I’ve termed our “second first love” is our spouse.
They deserve to be respected and treated as such.
They are worthy to the utmost to be maximally protected, cherished, guarded, and loved for as long as both spouses shall live.
It’s so vitally and critically important to remember that it’s impossible to follow through with our role in a godly marriage if the very first truth of our very first love, about first love isn’t recognized—that “God is love, that He first loved us.”
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
God, you are LOVE! Absolute, from everlasting to everlasting , perfect, unconditional, incomparable, pure, incomprehensible. And all creation is of your love. We are all born of this love. And your splendored love, ever existent, commands us to love you unceasingly, wholly, with all our minds, hearts, souls, strength. And to love our neighbor as ourselves. Lord, we are your chosen people and as Christians, who are born again, of the Spirit, as your children, we are set apart and identified by our love.
Jesus, in obedience of your Will, has taught us the meaning of true love, in serving our fellowmen with humility, and with compassion, without prejudice and without judgement. Father, you are the fountain of love, which emanates from you to us, and if we love as you do, it is because you are the source and origin of selfless love. Love, not just to our own, but also to our detractors, our enemies and our persecutors.
Loving Father, Precious Savior, Intercessor Holy Spirit, nothing more animates and inflames our love, than the One truth of the existence of your love for us, before ours, which shows that it is free, true, sovereign, and unmerited. Living in Savior Christ, aspiring to work and obtain salvation by our faith and your free grace, we know that when we stand before you, it will be because we have lived in obedience to your Will, have finally risen above pride, arrogance, ego, and have decreased ourselves in the purity of love, thereby increasing Christ, living in the counsel of the Spirit, in Christ.
Adeste Fideles! Laeti Triumphantes! Venite Adoremus! Dominum.
Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.