In THIS is love....

It was an errand day for us.  That means several stops and more time in the car than we usually spend on any given day.  So my grand-daughter and my 7 year old were buckled in the back seat and my teen was in the navigator position for the trip.  Every time we came to a stoplight the 20 month old grand-daughter yelled out, "GO!  GO! GO NOW!" and the 7 year old began to giggle.  What in the world?

As we exited the interstate and came to the light I watched it turn yellow with one car ahead of me.  The baby was grouchy and hungry by this time and the 7 year old needed a bathroom break and we were SOOO close to our destination.... until the car in front hit their breaks and chose to stop for the yellow light rather than proceed through.  "Seriously?!  Go!" I called out.  And a light bulb went off!

Oh my gosh!  It was me, my grand-daughter was imitating me, and my daughter not only recognized it but thought it was funny.  What kind of example was I setting?  This certainly wasn't behavior I wanted them displaying, nor was it behavior I wanted to be displaying.  It wasn't love.

1 John 4 tells us that we ought to love one another.  Sounds like a wonderful suggestion doesn't it?  One we should all strive to follow.  But when you read this in context, it becomes so much more than a suggestion....
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. ~1 John 4:7
First John makes a point of reminding us where love comes from-God.  It is impossible to truly love without first knowing and surrendering to Him.  The love that is talked about in this verse is the same love that God feels for Jesus and that Jesus feels for us.  It is the love that caused Jesus to sacrifice Himself to pay for all of our wrongs.  It is a full, all-consuming complete love.  

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. ~1 John 4:8
Love is a symptom of knowing God.  If someone doesn't love, John says he doesn't know God.  Cut and dry, can't put it any plainer than that.  Now before you start questioning your relationship with God, remember that we all fall short.  It doesn't say, "anyone who does not love EVERYONE doesn't know God," or "anyone who does not love ALL THE TIME does not know God."  We are still being perfected.  But if you find that you are less loving and more grumpy, hateful, and unloving then maybe you should take a few minutes and re-evaluate your relationship with Him.  
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. ~1 John 4:9
 God sets the example for us in what love really is - a willingness to sacrifice self for someone else.   He doesn't ask us to do more than He has done already.  And for most of us, He won't even ask for that much.  Few are ever called to sacrifice their own life for another.  We are more likely to be asked to sacrifice some personal time (like waiting at a yellow light rather than pushing on through!), perhaps some money (and what would it hurt to make a cup of coffee at home rather than stop at Starbucks this week so that we can give a little more), or maybe to open our eyes a little wider so that we recognize the opportunities to love those around us.
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. ~1 John 4:10
See what I mean about God setting the example for us?
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. ~1 John 4:11

This is a statement of both trust and truth.  If God loves us enough to send Jesus to die as propitiation for all we have done wrong (and He did - Jesus' life and His death are historical facts) then we ought to love one another.  Do you trust that Jesus' purpose in His life and death was an atoning sacrifice (that is what propitiation means)?  If you do, then the truth of the matter is that you ought to love one another.  Kind of changes they way you view that word, ought, doesn't it?
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. ~1 John 4:12
 Here is where it gets real.  We can't see God, no one ever has, but we can show Him to others through our actions.  We can love one another for Him.  And over time we display more and more godly, true love and less of the shadow of love that the world is accustomed to.  Not only will this help us personally to see Him in our own lives, but it helps others to see Him as well.  And isn't that what we want, to see and feel Him in our own lives and to share Him with others?

All I can say is that I have a way to go in having God's love perfected in me, but fortunately I have a patient Father who is carefully shaping and molding me.  He isn't done with me yet, and He isn't done with you either.  So keep pressing forward to the goal (Philippians 3:14) and start loving one another in both word and deed.  You never know who is watching, but I know the message I want them to see:  Jesus loves you!  How about you?
An interesting side note - the word love appears in 1 John twenty-three (23) times.  Only two other books of the Bible talk about love this much and they are Psalms (which was written to focus our thoughts on praise and adoration towards God) and Song of Solomon (which is about love-Solomon for his wife and God's love for us). 


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