7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 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 4:7-12 NIV)
As John continues to teach us about discernment, he now switches from doctrine to duty, from principle to practice.
Once again, John uses a familiar term of endearment twice in this passage (v. 7 and v. 11) to address his readers. The phrase “Dear friends” can also be translated “Beloved”, meaning we are loved unconditionally by God. John uses “Dear friends” / “Beloved” not as a teacher, but as an equal to us, reminding himself that God loves him the same as God loves us.
The word “love” used in these verses is the Greek word “agape”, which means to love unconditionally, with no expectation of the other person loving us back. This unconditional love is the inherent nature of God, the essence of His character and being. God’s unconditional love toward us is not based on feelings, but on a deliberate choice and accompanying actions on our behalf.
So what is John teaching us? To love one another unconditionally as Christ loves us. This is our test to show that we are truly followers of Christ. John tells us that our ability to love others unconditionally comes not from ourselves, from our human nature, but from God Himself living in us and through us.
John points out God’s example and demonstration of love toward us in verses 9 and 10. God loved us so much that He redeemed us from our sin through the sacrifice of His own son Jesus.
John’s conclusion is irrefutable: if God loved us so much that He sacrificed His own son on our behalf, how can we do anything less than love others unconditionally as God loved us? Our unconditional love for others is not to earn God’s favor or take His place is others’ lives. Our unconditional love for others is in response to God’s love for us, demonstrating that we understand and live out His command to love others as He loves us.
God’s love is not for us to collect, save up, or hoard. God’s love is meant to be shared in real, tangible ways with others. Sometimes God calls us to express His love to others with words, sometimes with actions, sometimes with neither words nor actions but simply our presence, our “being there” with someone.
John ends by reminding us that no one has seen God, but God shows Himself to others through our unconditional love for others, for that only comes from God. And God’s love pouring through us to others makes us like Jesus.
As you go about your day today, be aware of “divine interruptions”, as the Lord desires to demonstrate His love toward others through you. Pray for eyes to see and ears to hear the needs of others and what God might be asking you to do that would tangibly show His love to others.