1 John 4:7-21
John got it didn’t he?
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
The themes of Love and Life resonate powerfully in his gospel…..
God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, as the propitiation for our sins, so that we might live through Him…..We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
But is John 3:16 and the doctrine of propitiation the extent of John’s legacy? By no means. Even before the gospel which we have come to know (with John 3:16 at its core) was assembled, John had become an intimate friend of God Incarnate, having rested his head on his breast. The revelation that was entrusted to John is much fuller than Christ as payment and surety of a life after death. John’s breaking news was that the God of the Old Testament (who was known for his wrath at least as much as His love) is incredibly approachable and affectionate. Although he understood salvation as well as anyone, John’s legacy to the church is so much more than John 3:16. It is about abiding in a transformational love that was to be the fruit of salvation and the credibility of the gospel. Listen….
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. By this the love of God was manifested in us. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
John understood the full gospel. He got it. But he raises a serious question; have others actually got it where there is no evidence of transformational love. He is saying if we’ve got it….., really got it, loving our brother will be the evidence. He’s saying, if we are not loving one another, we don’t have it……
The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
John is saying (indirectly) that others who name the name of Jesus, who claim to have it and don’t is one reason (perhaps the greatest one) that others have not gotten it , essentially because they have never seen it. The following is from N.T. Wright’s commentary on this passage….
Only today I was talking to someone who, commenting gloomily on various experiences of actual church life, suggested that churches should have a ‘danger’ sign outside, warning people to expect nasty, gossipy, snide conversation and behavior if they came in. That sadly has always been a reality in church life. That is why, from Paul onwards, Christian writers have been at pains to insist that it should not be like that with us. The rule of love, I say again, is not an option. It is the very essence of what we are about. If this means we need some new reformation, so be it. Wright continues…..
In John’s prologue he says that “Nobody has ever seen God. The only begotten God, who is intimately close to the Father – he has brought him to light.’ The meaning of that statement is striking; we don’t really know who ‘God’ is – until we see it revealed in the life of Christians. Until, that is, ‘his love is completed in us.’ What God launched decisively in Jesus, he wants to compete in and through us. As Jesus unveiled God before a surprised and unready world, so must we. Love is that important.
Is this even doable? Yes, for one reason;
He has given us of His Spirit. We can love, because He first loved us. We can obey his command to love our brothers not because we loved God, but because He first has loved us
Wright proposed a reformation based on John’s declaration that “just as he (Christ) is, so are we within this world” and the reality that “love is a symptom of what Christianity is all about.” He believes that, “Love incarnate must be the badge that the Christian community wears, the sign not only of who they are but of who their God is.”
I humbly echo Mr. Wright’s call for a new reformation. In my typical mode of discovery, I stumbled into one a few years ago. And, as it has been before, I was looking for something I sensed I desperately needed. I chased reformation (or renewal or revival or whatever you would like to label it) around the country until I finally came to a place where I prayed something similar in spirit to the prayer I prayed when I first met Jesus Christ. That prayer was essentially, “God I surrender. I’ve got nothing to contribute here but you can have all of me to do with as you like.” My prayer after this intense quest for more was essentially, “Lord, I see you doing things everywhere and in everybody. I’ve got nothing I am aware of to contribute so I surrender to you. I have no idea how you might do it but I pray that you would bring revival to my heart. I will wait for you there. I really hope to see you soon.”
God has answered and is answering this prayer. Most of what I write is an account of a fresh hope which has come about through a process, not through an event (which I would have preferred). middlewithmystery.com is where I am chronicling that process. I mention my story here because it has been deeply influenced by John’s comments regarding fear.
By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
Father, may your love break through our defenses and establish itself for us to enjoy and the world to witness. Amen.