A Weekday Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church. Find another day here.
Friday May 29, 2020
1 John 4:9-12
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. 10 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. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
My college freshman roommate and I, John, first met shortly after we received our rooming assignment postcards in the mail, which revealed that, although we grew up less than a mile apart from each other, because we each lived on the border of two separate school districts, we had never met. For many people, going off to college is a chance at a fresh start, a shot at making a new beginning if you will. This is true both academically—as it is not uncommon for first semester freshman to struggle with the transition from simply showing up to class and making good grades to actually learning how to do things like take notes during lectures, read their textbooks, and study in preparation of exams—as well as socially. Probably the thing that I was most excited and also most nervous about in heading off to school was the chance to meet new people and make new friends. As John and I spent time getting to know each other the first few days of freshman orientation, we discovered we were both especially excited about making new friends who were girls. At that time, Grove City College gave each incoming student a directory booklet which contained the name, picture, and phone number of all 500+ new students, which became sort of the holy grail in our dorm room. After every new orientation mixer event, which included things like co-ed ultimate frisbee games, square dancing, and even a good old fashioned ice cream social, back in our room we would consult our directory circling the pictures of the girls we had met in an effort to remember their names for the next time our paths crossed.
Although we excitedly made friends with as many girls as we could, neither of us was eager to enter into romantic relationships right away. In fact, a relationship was so far from my radar that I was stunned speechless when, one evening about two months into school, one of my new “friends” asked me to meet her out in front of the school library. Standing awkwardly on the front steps, she nervously revealed that I was exactly the type of guy she could envision herself marrying one day. Unsure exactly how to respond to such a declaration, I thanked her for her honestly before quickly putting the exchange out of my mind. About a month went by before the same girl, once again taking advantage of an opportunity with no one else around, initiated a conversation about what it might be like for the two of us to be in a relationship. This time, I paid closer attention, and it’s now safe to say, nearly 17 years and 3 kids later, I am still glad that I did.
In any intimate relationship, someone always moves first, and our relationship with God is no exception. As John continues explaining the nature of the love of God, it is undeniably clear that God is the one who initiates. Not only was God not on our radar, but the Bible tells us that in our sinful nature, we are actually repulsed by God. In fact, before the Spirit of God does His regenerating work in our hearts, each of us lives as His enemies, actively working against Him and chasing after other gods and other loves that are far less powerful and far more destructive. It was in the midst of this active rebellion that God not only initiated, but solidified His love for us by sending Jesus to be the propitiation for our sins. Propitiation is a big word that means a sacrifice meant to appease the anger of God, and that is exactly what Jesus did for us. On the cross, the full force of the wrath of God, the penalty that each of us wholly earned and undeniably deserved, was placed upon the perfectly righteous, spotlessly innocent, Lamb of God. In the pivotal moment in the entirety of history, the unfathomable love of God was revealed through the fearsome wrath of God.
In the question of “Who moved first?” the answer is and always will be God. It is only because He manifested His love for us that we can know what love is at all. He loved us enough to pay the ultimate price through His voluntary sacrifice, even though the only thing He deserved was honor and adoration. John reminds us that we ought to love one another in the same way that Jesus loved: fully, completely, and selflessly. As we mentioned yesterday, it is not easy to love in the way of Jesus. Loving like Jesus requires putting the needs of others before our own, even though they have done nothing to deserve it. Like the response of an ignorant teenager who is determined to keep their romantic options open, our declarations of love often get ignored and even outright rejected. But although our love may never be appreciated or requited, it is through loving selflessly and sacrificially that we are told others can see and know Jesus. God has given us the great responsibility to show His love, but He has also given us the great ability to receive His love, and He promises that when we follow in His way, and love as He loved us, His love is made perfect in our lives, and the lives of many will be forever changed.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we love because You first loved us. We have done nothing to deserve Your attention or affection, but in Your divine mercy You offer us the greatest gift we could ever receive, the gift of life. Thank You that You did not leave us lost in our sin, but made the way for us to be with You. We are forever undeserving but forever grateful. May our lives of love be a fragrant aroma to a world desperately in search of a love that will last. In Your precious name we pray, Amen.