1 John 4
The apostle John wrote, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:7-8, New King James Version). Let's examine the life of love as described by John in the fourth chapter of his first letter.
John begins by pointing us to the source of love:
Love comes from God.
If love comes from God, then love links us to God. Love shows we know God. Thus the pity we feel at the plight of another is God's pity. The helping hand we lend is God's hand. Traveling a distance, spending money, taking risks in the service of others — these are ways we practice the love of God.
My son rode 16 hours with a group of students to hurricane-ravaged New Orleans. There they shoveled mud, tore out moldy drywall, and hung Sheetrock. The work was hard, but all agreed it was more than worth the trip.
Not everybody gets the opportunity to travel far to help the victims of a disaster. But every Christian gets the daily opportunity to "go the distance" in love. The trip will invariably take us farther than you thought! It will keep us longer and cost us more than we thought! For love is costly.
"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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:10-11).
"Propitiation" means payment. My dad used to say, “You get what you pay for.” In order to secure us for himself, God had to pay for us. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Love is as hard as nails. Love is nails . . . ” God paid for us not with cold, hard cash, but with the warm, wet blood of his own Son.
If love cost God, it will cost us. Daily we will be called upon to love people who won't love us back. Daily we'll have to deal with people born in the "kick-ative case and the objective mood." I've seen church leaders struggle to maintain their composure in the face of raw, seething rebellion. I've listened to preachers pour out their frustrations. One told me, "You know you're leading when you feel them kicking you from behind."
Why not walk away then? Leave the unlovely to wallow in their ugliness? In a few words John tells us why: Love comes from God. It doesn't come from nice people like us any more than it comes from nasty people like them. None of us deserves love, certainly not the love that went to the cross to save us. Elsewhere John writes, "See how great a love the Father has lavished on us." God has slopped and splattered us with love, as an inexperienced painter might slop and splatter walls, ceiling, and floors. Herein lies the reason not only to love God but also to try again to love the other guy. After all, how else will he learn how much God loves him?