A Weekday Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church. Find another day here.
Thursday May 28, 2020
1 John 4:7-8
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Who is God? What is He like? How would you answer this question? For St. Augustine, the answer lies right here in 1 John 4:8, of which he writes: “If nothing were said in praise of love thorough the pages of this Epistle, if nothing whatever throughout the pages of the Scriptures, and this one thing only were all we were told by the voice of the Spirit of God, For God is love; nothing more ought we require.” Who is God? God is love. That answer naturally leads us to another question: what is love? For many, love is notoriously difficult to define. Some would simply say, “love is love” or “I know love when I see it.” Others of us may regularly say things like, “I love tacos,” or “I love the beach,” or perhaps even the ultimate “I love eating tacos at the beach.” In the modern English language, love is often conflated with infatuation or attraction. As such, love is seen as a powerful emotion, but an emotion nonetheless.
One of the better popular descriptions of love actually comes from, of all places, Olaf the snowman in the popular Disney movie Frozen, who tells Princess Anna, “Love is putting someone else’s needs before yours.” This idea of love has nothing to do with physical attraction or personal preference but everything to do with intentional, self-giving action.
Love is intentional. This means that love is shown in relationship. Due to the increasingly high prevalence of divorce in the western world, it has become commonly accepted for some time now for the phrase, “To death do us part” with “As long as our love shall last” in wedding vows. While I am a pretty big proponent of the belief that the ultimate success of a marriage has very little correlation with the ability to execute a perfect wedding day, having at its foundation the idea that a marriage will only last as long as the feeling of love between two people is like giving Batman an eject button in the Batmobile: sooner or later it is going to be used.
Even in the best of times, the ultimate example of love has never been found between a man and a woman but in the person of God. From before the beginning began, God existed in three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit and existed in perfect relationship. In John 17, Jesus prayed to the Father of His disciples “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them.” God did not create the universe because He was bored or lonely, as many have suggested. Rather, in forever existing in three persons, the Father, Son, and Spirit enjoyed a perfect relationship of love and created out of an excess of their mutual love, in order to share that love with all of creation. Using analogies in relation to the trinity are always ripe for heresy, but think of it as a husband and wife deciding to have a child. They do not do so because they are lonely or want someone to care for them when they are older, but to share the joy of their mutual love with another. Similarly, God’s creation was not accidental, but an intentional act of love.
Love is giving. Scripture tells us that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift. The sun and the rain fall on both the righteous and the unrighteous. All of creation is the recipient of these common gifts, or graces, of God. But God did not stop at giving things like geological and natural wonders, beautiful landscapes, or even intellect capable of incredible feats. Because He is omniscient and omnipotent, before God even created the world, He had already decided to show His love in a special way, through a special grace, by the giving of His Son. The Father gave the Son to the world, and the Son gave His life for the world, that all who would believe in His name would know life.
Love demands action. God’s love for us was shown by His action for us, and His love for us should motivate our love and action on behalf of others. To co-opt a phrase by Bette Davis regarding the difficulties of old age: “Love is not for sissies.” Love is not always easy; at times love is uncomfortable and requires everything from us. If love means putting the needs of others before ourselves, then loving in the way of Jesus will require sacrifice. Love is not a command reserved only for our family or best friends within the church; loving others involves giving ourselves even to our enemies. In a world that is marked with seemingly endless divisions, whether politics, race, religion, economics, or social standing, Christian love is blind. Loving in the way of Jesus requires moving beyond our comfort zone and intentionally seeking out and caring for the needs of the least deserving, those who could never repay us and often won’t even thank us. Only then can we know what it is like to love like Jesus.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, You love us because Love is who You are. As we strive to become more like You, we pray that You would empower us to love others in the way that You have loved us. Help us to remember that we do not deserve Your love, and yet You give it to us freely. Grant that our thoughts, our words, and our actions be an overflow of the unstoppable love that we have from You. Amen.