1 John 4:7–21
I’m a bit of a fan of technology. Not always. It can be a terrible distraction, but I rather like gadgets. If I could, I’d be buying all sorts of new gadgets all the time. They make life so much easier. We wonder how our parents did without the things we take for granted.
How did grandma cook without a rice cooker? How did she keep kimchi without a kimchi refrigerator? What did people do before computer games? Etc etc. Life is so much more convenient nowadays.
For example, these days we have computer Bibles. I can do a word search and in a second learn how many times the word ‘sword’ appears in the Bible. The answer is 259 times. The word ‘holy’ appears 639 times. The word ‘love’, 759 times – 499 times in the Old Testament and 260 in the New Testament.
It’s fun, easy and convenient. In the past you would have to sit down and read through each page of the Bible carefully to count the number of words. It would take ages.
Although it’s fast and fun, we need to be careful with technology. Faster does not mean better. To understand about love it is not enough to know how many times the word is used in the Bible. That is knowledge. It isn’t understanding.
When we think of love in the Bible there are a couple of things that usually come to mind first. One is the great commandment, or golden rule (Matthew 22:35-40). This is often considered the core of Christianity by many people. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” And, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
Another verse that often comes to mind is the one we heard read this morning – 1 John 4:8 – “God is love”. It sounds nice, but do we really know what it means. Do we understand it?
The Old Testament has a lot to say about love. The great commandment is a quote from the Old Testament. If we rely only on our computer to show us all the times the Old Testament says love, we will miss something incredibly important. Did you know that when the Old Testament talks about God’s love it often doesn’t use the word ‘love’. The word the Old Testament uses most often to talk about God’s love is ‘mercy’.
This is the Hebrew word ‘râcham’ – רָחַם – and it means ‘compassionate love’. When the Bible says that God loves you, it means he has mercy on you. When the Bible says God has mercy on you, it means he is pouring out compassionate love on you.
Do you want to know what real love is?
1 John 4:10 says:
This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us.
We are used to being told we have to love each other. We have to love our enemies. If we don’t love, we are rotten sinners. This places a huge burden on us, and we can feel hopeless because it often seems impossible to love the way we are told to love.
This morning John is telling us that although it is really important to love each other, there is a more important thing to understand. When we love each other, it shows we are God’s children. Before we can get to that place, we have to understand God’s love for us.
John says in verse 16:
We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.
It is really important to understand that God loves you. God directs his mercy towards you. You will never be able to love anyone, even yourself, until you understand how much God loves you. So we need to abide in God’s love. We have to practise living in God. God is love.
In verse 19 John says: We love each other because he loved us first.
Let’s try doing this. See what it feels like. Say out loud together, “God loves —-.” say your name. 3, 2, 1, go. Now look at the person next to you. God loves them just as much. Ask them their name. Now together let’s say, “God loves —-.” say their name. 3, 2, 1, go.
God’s love is important because it’s the perfect bond of union, not only between God and me, but also between others and myself. (Colossians 3:14 says love binds us all together in perfect harmony.)
When we read the Bible, if we remember that God is love it will help us understand many things. Why did God make us as his children? Because of his love for us. Why did he kick Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden instead of striking them with lightning? Because of his mercy. Because of his love for us. Why did God send a flood in Noah’s day? Because of his mercy. He wanted to save us from all the sin in the world and wash it all away. He loves us.
Because of his love, God initiated a relationship with you. He maintains that relationship and continually reconciles that relationship, because of his love and mercy.
God’s love is the only power that enables us to unconditionally forgive and forget what others have done to us. When God cleanses and heals us by his love, our wounds are not just covered over or pushed down, they are removed from us.
Paul advises the Ephesians – May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:19)
We are made complete when we experience the love of Christ.
Perhaps you have been living and thinking that it was in loving others that you were made complete. It can often seem like that and we feel guilty because we cannot do it. The reason we cannot do it is that we haven’t yet deeply enough experienced God’s love for us.
When you love another person, as we are commanded to do, it is the expression of God’s love within us. God’s mercy in us flows out to others.
Let’s try to imagine if Jesus walked into your home. What would he do first? When Jesus walked into his father’s house he turned over the tables of the money lenders in an act of love.
In your home, Jesus would grab what ever was hurting you, that money, that iPad, that food, that trashy magazine, and throw it across the room as he cleaned your house. He would then turn to you, pull you close to him, and hold you against his chest. He would embrace you with tears as he protected you with his arms. Jesus would cry and tell you how sorry he was that those people, those things, those images had hurt you. He would show you how much he loves you and wants to protect you from those harmful things. He would dance and shout and sing. YOU. ARE. LOVED.
None of us are beyond the love of God. This is why the language of God as Father is so powerful. The connection of parent to child is so deep and so immense, that nothing can separate us from their love. No matter how far we have gone astray, no matter what our offence, we are his children first and foremost and he loves us unconditionally. This has been expressed time and time again in the scriptures, but somehow many of us don’t fully grasp it. The Prodigal Son, the Lost Sheep, the Woman Caught in Adultery. They all speak of the unshakable love of God for us.
Once we finally go beyond knowledge and understand we are loved, then we can see why we need to live our lives as children of God. Once you know we are loved, you can love others and let them know that GOD loves them too. This is what we are called to do.
As we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgement, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.