This probably comes as no surprise to you, but since covid-19 rearranged so many of our lives and schedules, we have changed how much time we spend looking at a screen, whether it’s a tv, smartphone, laptop, or computer screen.
As a whole, we are spending a significant amount of time on these devices.
With that increased usage comes an increase in our exposure to hateful and divisive behaviors.
Anger, violence, and unrest that is posted to social media platforms only reflects and magnifies the anger, violence, and unrest in our communities.
With all of this unrest in our global communities, some people may reasonably wonder exactly where God is in all of this.
Others are max tempted to question the quality and quantity of God’s goodness.
They might ask,
They might shout,
They might scream at the top of their collective lungs,
They might march in the streets, raising high signs of protest and indignation,
“If God is so good, then how can He allow all of this hate and violence to exist?
But just because there is human hatred and violence in our presence, this in no way negates God’s goodness and love.
You see, the world’s concept of love cannot hope to compare with God’s love.
I am referring to God’s love that was on display when He gave His one and only Son to die on the cross for the sins of the world.
We can’t do anything to deserve God’s love, but He loves us anyway.
God’s love abides forever, and He wants us to be sure of His love for us.
Today we will be using 1 John 4 for our focal passage.
John has already spoken to us twice on the theme of love as we looked at his writings in 1 John chapters 2 and 3.
Now he was dealing with the topic for the third time.
It is critically important here to know this about Scripture: when Scripture addresses a matter even once, it is important, but when God inspires a biblical writer to address a topic repeatedly, we should really sit up and take notice.
So, let us “sit up” and take notice once again to what God tells us about love.
1 John 4:7-10Amplified Bible
God Is Love
7 Beloved, let us [unselfishly] [a]love and seek the best for one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves [others] is born of God and knows God [through personal experience]. 8 The one who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love. [He is the originator of love, and it is an enduring attribute of His nature.] 9 By this the love of God was displayed in us, in that God has sent His [One and] only begotten Son [the One who is truly unique, the only One of His kind] into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [that is, the atoning sacrifice, and the satisfying offering] for our sins [fulfilling God’s requirement for justice against sin and placating His wrath].
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
Love is the very nature of God.
So, John writes,
“Love is from God, and love comes from God because God is love.”
Love is not just another characteristic of God among many.
It’s God’s very nature from which all the other attributes come.
Everything that comes from God can be attributed to His love for us.
So, if God judges, He judges in love.
That does not mean God condones sin, but in love, He is exposed to that sin and sent His son to die for sin’s penalty.
Most all of us are familiar with John 3:16, that says
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
1 John 4 verse 9, John is reminding us that God sent His one and only Son into the world so that we can know that God loves us.
The origin of Love is God.
Love began with God.
So, Jesus is the manifestation of God’s love.
God showed his love toward us by sending His Son to pay our sin debt.
How great is God’s love?
The answer to that is that God’s love is seen in the value of the gift: God gave His one and only Son (John 3:16-17).
And that is an extremely valuable gift.
So, God sent His Son as a demonstration of His love for us.
The Greek word used in 1 John 4 verse 9 for “only son” is the same word that was used to describe Abraham’s offering up of his only son, Isaac.
Let’s go back in Scripture several hundred years and I will explain that.
In Genesis 22, God tested Abraham.
He told Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, whom Abraham loved, to the land of Mariah and offer him as a burnt offering on the mountain to God.
Abraham did not question God but obeyed God immediately.
The story reaches its climax when Abraham, who had bound Isaac and laid him on the altar, raised his knife to the sky.
It was not until then that God’s angel called to Abraham, telling Abraham not to harm the boy.
Abraham proved his reverent fear of God.
God knew Abraham’s heart and knew that Abraham would carry out God’s order to sacrifice his son Isaac.
Then, in a beautiful display of His vast mercy and grace, God provided a ram to sacrifice in young Isaac’s place.
God, out of His love, provided the substitute sacrifice.
Do you and I see the similarities?
God spared Abraham’s son, but the difference is He didn’t spare His own Son on the cross.
God willingly gave His Son to die in our place, and Jesus willingly took the punishment for our sins upon Himself.
God did not do this because we are lovable, rays of sunshine on a stormy day.
By no means.
He loved and sent His Son to rescue us, not because we are lovable, but because God is love.
So, the greatness of God’s love is seen in the costliness of His self-sacrifice for us who are so utterly and completely undeserving.
So now with all of that in mind John writes,
“Let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”
1 John 4:11 – “Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.”
We’ve already seen in 1 John 4:7 the command to love one another.
John repeated that twice more here in 1 John 4 verse 11 and then in verse 12.
With this call to love one another as God loved us comes great responsibility.
We are to love others as God has loved us.
That is an enormously tall order.
Are we even capable of such an indescribable magnitude of Love?
God has loved us with a boundless, changeless, ultimate self-sacrificing love.
God still loves us in the same way today, as he seeks to display that magnitude of love through us.
So, we saw in 1 John chapter 4 verses 8-9, that God revealed His love when His Son, Jesus, became the sacrifice for our sins.
He took away our sin, but He didn’t just take away the bad.
He gave to us as well.
What did he give us?
Jesus gave us life that we might live through Him.
Now you are perhaps asking the inevitable question, what does that mean?
That clearly means that we are to live in Him, which means we are to allow others to see His love in and through us.
People should see Jesus’s love shine from us without us saying a word.
To love with God’s love gives evidence that we have a relationship with the One who displays His love through us.
Then, if we didn’t understand the positive side of that, John States it negatively in 1 John chapter 4 verse 8. “The one who does not love, does not know God.”
Now that all sounds pretty and nice doesn’t it?
But here comes the test.
Think about your relationships right now.
It is reasonably safe to say there is someone that you find difficult to love.
It is reasonably safe to say there is someone that you find impossible to love.
It is reasonable safe to say there is that someone you have no trouble hating.
Your instructions here are to ask God to help you love these individuals as He loves them.
Again, that is a pretty tall order.
Kind of like standing or sitting still as someone runs nails down a chalkboard.
But it is not something that, through God’s miracles, we cannot accomplish.
John goes a little deeper and says:
1 John 4:12 – 13 – “No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.”
John reminds us here that no one has ever seen God.
So how do we even know that God is around?
Believers reveal the presence of God through the way they love one another.
The very fact that we love one another serves as evidence that God remains in us, and we remain in Him.
We embrace God’s love, He comes to live in us, and His love pours out of us as we love others.
So, when individual or groups of people see the mutual love given and shared between brothers and sisters in Christ, they see the display of God’s love.
A quick recap.
When we accept Christ as our personal Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us.
In that, we now possess the fruit of that spirit.
One of those fruits is love.
As a Christian, love is the fruit of God’s indwelling Spirit.
God is perfect in His love.
He Lacks nothing.
But God’s love is made complete when that love flows through us.
God has chosen to use His people as channels of His love.
So, we are to present ourselves to Him daily as instruments of His continual love.
When we love others, we cooperate with God’s redemptive plan for the world, so that others can be sure of God’s love for them.
Let me ask you.
If you ever plan on going to another particular church and you see the church members fighting and quarreling among each other, is that a church you would want to attend, give of your time, tithe and other material spiritual resources?
On the other hand, if you go to another church and the people are loving and caring and show a genuine love toward one another, is that a church you would like to attend and be part of, give of your time and tithe and material resources?
I rest my case.
And here’s the thing.
Putting God’s love on display is to be a continuous, ongoing activity.
Now we will all have to admit that there are times when it is hard to love, especially when we feel that we have been wronged or hurt by someone.
It is in those moments, in our humanity, that the last thing we want to do is express forgiveness and extend acts of kindness to that person.
But God has commanded us to love one another as God first loved us, and what God commands, He makes possible through the max example set by His Son.
Will we, do it?
Sadly, probably not!
It is in our sin nature that we simply find it much too easy to magnify hate.
Can we, do it? Can we unconditionally love one another as God first did?
Yes, we can!
If we willingly surrender our whole selves – hurts, hang-ups and hates too – and sacrifice all of those hurts, hang-ups and hates on the altar of His Mercy.
Psalm 103:1-5Amplified Bible
Praise for the Lord’s Mercies.
A Psalm of David.
103 Bless and affectionately praise the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is [deep] within me, bless His holy name.
Bless and affectionately praise the Lord, O my soul,
And do not forget any of His benefits;
Who forgives all your sins,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you [lavishly] with lovingkindness and tender mercy;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the [soaring] eagle.
So, we are to love, not for our enfeebled sake, but for the sake of Jesus Christ.
And the key to transforming boundless hate into loving others is in loving God.
Luke 6:27-36Amplified Bible
27 “But I say to you who hear [Me and pay attention to My words]: [a]Love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies, [make it a practice to] do good to those who hate you, 28 bless and show kindness to those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 Whoever [b]strikes you on the cheek, offer him the other one also [simply ignore insignificant insults or losses and do not bother to retaliate—maintain your dignity]. Whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you. [c]Whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. 31 Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 32 If you [only] love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend [money] to those from whom you expect to receive [it back], what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to receive back the same amount. 35 But love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies, and do good, and lend, [d]expecting nothing in return; for your reward will be great (rich, abundant), and you will be sons of the Most High; because He Himself is kind and gracious and good to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful (responsive, compassionate, tender) just as your [heavenly] Father is merciful.
The more we love God, the more of God’s love will flow out of us toward others.
Picture it as a garden hose attached to the outdoor faucet of a house.
When the faucet is turned on, the water flows.
The hose doesn’t produce the water.
It is only the conduit for the water to flow freely.
In ourselves, we might find it difficult, impossible to love, especially to love unconditionally, as God loves.
But when we are attached to Him, when we remain in Christ as Jesus said (John 15:1-5), His love flows freely through us.
And I would commend all of you reading this for your demonstrations of your sacrifices of unconditional mercy towards one another, love of one another.
God loves watching us constantly encouraging others. Writing notes, making phone calls, giving of your time, and just spending time with one another.
That lets others know we truly care. And remember what God has always said. If we want to make a lasting impact on our society and community, then just care.
Our lives ought to be characterized by daily acts of kindness.
We should serve in order to share Christ’s sacrifice that gave us salvation.
To love others is to seek their highest good.
God’s presence, God’s mercy, God’s love does not just seek to meet needs, but it aims to max exceed those needs in maximum abundance in the name of Christ.
Let me give you a biblical example.
The gospel of Mark 2:1-12, illustrates for us a crystal-clear example of loving sacrificial service with genuine gospel intent.
You might remember the story.
Four men carried a paralyzed man on a mat to meet Jesus, believing Jesus was able to heal the man.
But when they arrived, the crowd’s size made it impossible for the men to get their friend to Jesus.
But they refused to give up.
They would not be denied.
Their love for their friend compelled them to max out the extra mile.
They had that man’s highest good at heart.
The men climbed to the top of the house, removed the roof, and lowered their friend before Jesus.
And Jesus, who is love, not only healed the man but also forgave his sins.
What a beautiful example of tangible acts of kindness.
What a glorious example of seeking someone’s highest good.
If only you and I had such a story to tell …. imagine the max impact on others!
1 John 4:19-21 – “We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.”
John didn’t leave any gray areas here, did he?
Nor did he sugarcoat his words. “If anyone says I love God and yet hates his brother or sister he is a liar.”
Then to further stress that truth, John said, “For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
The statements strike to the core of the issue.
Of course, some would say it’s easier to love God because He first loved us.
But John argued just the opposite.
Logically, it’s easier to show love to people who are visibly present, rather than God, who is an invisible spirit.
So here is the issue.
A failure to love people whom we can see is a failure to love God whom we cannot see, and a failure to love is hate.
It gets down to this, we live out our love for God when we choose to love other people whom we would find it easier to rationalize and fully realize our hate.
Love overcomes hate.
There is so much visible hate in our world today that it is vitally important that Christians love one another. But our love should not stop with other Christians.
Impossible love needs to go out into the world and seek to win the lost to Christ.
Jesus came in human flesh because He loved us. He gave His life out of love for the lost, and we are to follow His example.
We, too, are to love the sinner.
We are to love the down cast and broken.
We are to love the weak and lonely.
We are to love the sick and needy.
We are to love the least of these as Jesus said. (Matthew 25:34-40)
So, to be sure of God’s maximum love, there is something we must do.
How can we be sure of God’s love for us?
Commit yourself to love like Jesus, who unselfishly gave His life for others.
Try to keep in mind and max love like the four men who did whatever it took to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus.
Practice sacrificial, transforming love like the Good Samaritan who willingly set aside the traditional hatred of others towards him, to meet a stranger’s needs.
This is the kind of love that grabs someone’s attention and changes the world.
By showing our love for one another, even those we declare our worst enemy, it will “heap coals on their heads,” help others to be sure of God’s love for them.
Maybe you have never felt God’s love. If you have not, is it because you have never asked Jesus Christ, God’s son, to come and pour his love into your life.
Why not do that now?
Stuff your pride under the chair and take that first critical step toward Jesus.
Your heart and your soul and your whole life will surely be glad you did.
Pray unto the Father and Author and Weaver of your life and ask Him to come into your heart and instruct and guide and love your life from this day forward.
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
Loving Heavenly Father, You have loved me with immeasurable love. You are love. I pray that I will be strengthened in my inner being – in my soul – with the love that is wider than I can understand, deeper than I am able to imagine, and greater than I could ever know. As You encourage and embolden me, may I more fully know the mystery of the Gospel as revealed in my life. In the love of Christ, I pray. Amen.