1John 4.7-10. Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
This passage is quite shocking and I don’t think we really see the full impact of it. Notice that St John stated that followers of Jesus are to ‘continue to love one another’. To me, this reflects a possible issue within the church today. With so many different denominations (whether Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox), I fear that some of us have an attitude that is not that of Christ (cf. Phil.2.5-11). Perhaps we think more highly of ourselves than others. Maybe we think that we have it all figured out and others don’t. Whatever they case may be, St John seems to be warning against just this type of attitude and those to whom he wrote seem to be excelling in the way of Love. He wrote to ‘continue to love one another’. Those to whom he wrote were already loving each other and possibly all those who were followers of Christ. And, further still, probably those who were even outside of the church. They were loving like Christ loves.
Next, St John wrote something really astonishing. He stated that ‘love comes from God’ and ‘[anyone] who loves is a child of God and knows God’. Surely St John can’t mean that? 'Anyone’? What about those of different denominations? What about Catholics? What about Protestants? What about those of the Orthodox faith? St John states that if they love, they are ‘a child of God and knows God’. But what of those of other faith traditions? Or of no faith tradition? Surely they can’t be ‘of God and [know] God’ just because they love? But what if they are? What if, like the Gentiles St Paul wrote about in Romans 2, they really do have ‘God’s law...written in their hearts’? This is what I think St John is leading us to see. To see God in the lives of the ‘other’ even when it doesn’t follow our way of understanding.
Recently, some Tibetan Buddhist Monks came to our neighborhood. During the conversation, one of them stated that the only way forward for the world, as far as he could see, is that of a new humanity. ‘What the world needs is a new humanity. A humanity that puts others before themselves. A humanity that sets aside their own needs for the needs of their neighbors and the world. This is the only way our world will survive’. The Sermon on the Mount and some of the sayings of St Paul leapt into my mind. It seems to be that St John knew it as well. ‘Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.’ The only way forward is through Love. How do we do this? St John tells us in the next verses.
He states the way of Love is through giving of ourselves for others. ‘Real love’, he wrote, is the cross event. It is just like Jesus said, ‘There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (John 15.13). That is the ‘real love’ to which St John is referring. If we see this in others, we can be certain that God is within them; that they are children of God and know God.
I think that this passage is extremely relevant for our world today. Not just for the Christian family, but for the human family. Too often we look at others with suspicion. When new people move in to our neighborhoods, we don’t even go over and welcome them to the area. Most of us don’t even know our neighbors names or anything about them. We just keep to ourselves and they do the same.
Some of us make judgment calls based on the way others look. Or the color of their skin. Or their gender. Or their sexual preferences. We make assumptions based on our past experiences or on the way we were brought up. We put all people within the same group as ‘other’ and pose upon them the same falseness of what we witnessed or heard about. ‘All men are...’ Or ‘All women are...’ But what God is calling us to do, what God is calling us to be, is a new humanity, nay, a true humanity that is based on the life of Jesus; the Way of Jesus. The Way of Love. Jesus told us that there are really only two commandments, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Mark 12.29-31).
So, what if we lived this passage from 1John 4? What would happen if we actually loved others as Christ loves? What if, when looking at others, we look for Christ within them? I think we will be very surprised. I think we will find Christ even in those whom we don’t think are followers. Jesus said, ‘Keep on seeking, and you will find...Everyone who seeks, finds’ (Matthew 7.7-8).
St Paul wrote, ‘Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. [Therefore] Let love be your highest goal!’ Why? Because ‘anyone who loves if a child of God and knows God’.
In the Love of the Three in One,