1 John 4:7-21 It’s never good to be lost… even when we are lost in love. It could be a bit overwhelming to hear the word “Love” 27 times in 15 verses in 1 John 4:7-21. So let us attempt to unpack it and isolate some of the points that the author would have us ponder.
In one sense, the subject is simplified because in all 27 occurrences of the word “love”, the Greek word from which it is translated is the same. And yet, this fact makes it more challenging and very definitive, because that word is “agape” (noun) and agapao” (verb). This is not the brotherly kindness referred to in part 1 of 1 Peter1:22, but the sacrificial love referred to in part 2 of 1 Peter 1:22. This is the single-barrel John 3:16 love, as well as the double-barrel 1 John 3:16 love. It has less to do with feeling, and more to do with an act of the will. And yet our will can act only on what is available to be acted on… and it is God who implants both His love and our ability to love in our hearts.
Verse 7 tells us that anyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. But is this a case of all Vauxhall cars are green, but not all green cars are Vauxhalls? Is John suggesting that someone can be born of God and not love? This question is definitively answered in the next verse. “Whoever does not love (others), does not know God”. Note the subtlety here. The standard used here is “knowledge” and not “love”. You can know God and not love God, but you cannot love God if you do not know God. John has made it as clear as is possible… yes, frighteningly clear.
Most decent persons that I know would like to proudly say, “I love God.” On what grounds do I believe that person, since I cannot see God, much less see his relationship with God? The answer is simple and is found in verse 20. “For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” Jesus turns up the heat when He instructs us to also love (agapao) our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
So you can think of one or two persons who you don’t love, and possibly one who you hate, and these do not include your enemies. But you genuinely believe that you love God. Are you confused?
Remember, your salvation does not depend on your loving God. It depends on God loving you (verse 9). There is still time for you to work on loving God.
God does not require you to emotionally like anyone, but to mentally love every one. That is why the Greek word used is “agapao” and not “phileo” or “philadelphia”.
- The first motivation for our loving (agapao) others is that God first loved us (verses 10 & 19).
- The second motivation is that God commands us to love each other as a way of demonstrating our love for Him (verse 21).
- The third motivation is that it is God who gives us the ability to genuinely, sacrificially love each other and feel good about it. (verses 7 & 11-12)
- The fourth motivation is that in our attempt to love God who we cannot see, we will love those who are made in His image and likeness (verse 20). Like Mother Theresa, we will “learn” to see God in the cripple and the weak and the poor as well as in the strong and rich, and also in our enemies.
Just as we all have the same number of muscles, and yet some are stronger than others, so all Believers have the ability to love, but exercise it to different degrees. Motivated by God’s love for us, let us exercise and build our love muscles every day that we live.
Remember to visit RBC’s Our Daily Bread Devotional today at www.ODB.org