Love One Another
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.
- 1 John 4:11-12
Love isn’t easy, nor does it come naturally. We can all think of countless times in which we have struggled to love people, sometimes even brothers and sisters in Christ. As much as we talk about “love” in our society, whether it’s in films, romance novels, or fairy tales, we know, as believers, that true and genuine love does not exist apart from God.
Worldly “love” is all that the famous passage from 1 Corinthians 13 isn’t. Worldly love runs out of patience and tires with kindness. It is envious, boastful, and prideful. It is quick to dishonor others due to self-seeking ambitions. It is quick to anger and refuses to let go of grudges. Worldly love protects only itself, trusts only in itself, hopes only in itself, and perseveres only for the sake of itself. We see this reality manifested in the world because we know that our world is fallen. We live in a sinful world, and so our attempts at love will always fall short of the creator and source of perfect love, God.
Genuine love cannot happen without the presence of God. This is exactly what 1 John 4:11 is telling us. Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. It is not saying that once we love one another, God will love us. This would be impossible. God’s love must precede our love so that our love can proceed from His. If we believe that we can perfectly love somebody without doing that through the love of God, we are sorely confused by our pride and sense of self-sufficiency.
Verse 12 goes on to say that if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. Our love toward one another is evidence that God lives in us. If we love one another, it is because God, and His love, is in us. This statement is preceded by the short phrase, “No one has ever seen God; but”. God, in the fullness of His existence, is too glorious and wonderful for us to see with our earthly eyes. Yet, when we understand that God lives within all believers, the implication is that when His love is completed in us, and we love one another through that love, we are loving God, because He lives in those same brothers and sisters we are loving.
Action Step: Read Matthew 25:31-46. How do the truths from 1 John help you better understand the story of the sheep and the goats? How can you better love your brothers and sisters in light of these passages? How do these passages cause you to think differently about “true love”? Take a few moments in prayer, asking God to continue to give you better understanding of His love, and how that love works through you.