“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 (ESV)
Have you seen people who brag about how principled they are and how any disagreement they have with anyone is not personal but based on principle?
I am one of those people. There are values and belief systems that I hold to and defend so passionately. Call them ideals.
But there are also people God has placed in my path to love so passionately.
Here is the civil war: I find within me an ongoing conflict, whether to love my ideals or the people God has placed in my life. I always end up picking these filthy ideals. How tragic!
Ideals are the highest level of self-love. When we advance them, we are in a way telling the world that we love ourselves more and we are the fulcrum on which this world spins.
Whenever I am in a situation where I need to love and serve my neighbor, my values always come in the way. And when I pick them over people, I fail to love them and continue to exhibit the sin in me that glorifies me instead of glorifying God.
Am not suggesting we drop our principles, am instead suggesting that we ought to love people more, and hold them above our cherished ideals.
Whenever we put our ideals before people, what we are doing is planting hurdles after the finish line. What was our problem and has now been defeated by Christ is what we bring back to manipulate and switch people—human regulations.
From our portion of scripture this week, St. John has a lot to say about our love for others. There are four things that I want to point out:
1. We are Vertically Justified
The only justifying love is God’s love for us, not our love for him. The love of God reaching down from heaven in the Word incarnate—Jesus Christ—is our sole means of salvation; not our love that falters to reach up to Him.
2. Love Flows from Gratitude
St. John opens this section of scripture in 1 John 4:7 by calling us to love our neighbour. It is also important to note that this imperative is groundless, as all imperatives in scripture. The only grounding it has is later on when John says “…not that we have loved God but that he loved us…” 1 John 4:10, and in verse 19 when he writes: “We love because he first loved us.”
What he is saying is this: God’s love for us (not our love for God or other people) is the fuel that powers us to love our neighbour. That love flows out of a sense of gratitude for what God has done for you and me.
3. Look out and Up
If we are to genuinely and recklessly love our neighbour, we ought to find the reason outside of us and up in God Himself and what He has done for us.
The desire in us is so inclined towards doing evil than it is inclined towards doing what God has called us to do, therefore, we ought only to look to the one who has called us. He is our only motivation to look beyond our filthy ideals and go on to identify the needs of our neighbour and see how we can meet them.
4. “Me” is out of the Equation
In this entire section of scripture, John is committed to killing the demon of self. He gives it no breathing space at all. The countful times he talks about “us” and “we” is when he is talking about God’s love which has been lavished on us.
Therefore the plea to “love ourselves”, “please ourselves”, “find friends that add value to us”, “delete negative people from our Facebook friends list” and so on that the life coaches always blab about are flashed down the toilet.
The “Me” is in Christ, and everything that I desire and long for has been fully, finally and freely delivered to me by God in Christ Jesus. I need nothing from anyone, much less the world! But I will give everything because I already have everything in Christ. So are you.
That is your Lifeline,
Colossians 2:6-28; 1 John 4:7-21