Love is the Evidence

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Confession – this is going to be ground zero for us today, because the rest of this passage unpacks those two lines.

Dear friends, let us love one another…

I love how this verse oozes care from the outset.

Sure, in these verses John challenges both those he’s immediately writing to, & us, but he does so with such care. I believe this firmly echoes Jesus’ own way of dealing with those broken by sin throughout the Gospels.

There is a deep compassion in the heart of God for the lost.

I don’t think of God as “angry”, but any anger that IS in God is directed at our SIN, because it pushes us away from Him, & does damage to the created-Image-of-God in us. In a sense, sin makes us less truly human, because to be truly human is to be “Imago Dei”, or to be a portrait of God to the world. Jesus was TRULY human, & He was also God’s love-to-this-broken-world enfleshed, “with feet”, so to say. Jesus is God’s pursuit of us!

John writes, “let us love one another”! Who is “one another”. We can only assume that John – the one Jesus loves – is unpacking Christ’s own teaching here… who is our neighbor? Jesus tells us that our neighbor is the LAST PERSON ON EARTH that we want to be neighborly to, then Jesus challenged us to BE a good neighbor to everyone. 

Who is it that you believe doesn’t deserve love? Love them. They are “one another”.

And why do we love them? 

Sometimes I get nervous when people say the words “the Bible CLEARLY SAYS” because far too often the next verse they quote will be entirely out of context & be something that the Bible definitely has no intentions of saying, but in this case – and in context – the Bible is very clear…
Why are we called to “love one another”?

because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

The test of true faith isn’t perfect doctrine, but what Paul calls “the fruit of the Spirit”. Most Evangelical Bible scholars – that is to say, academics who truly love Jesus & take the Biblical text very seriously – point out that “fruit” is a singular word… it’s not “the FRUITS of the Spirit”, but the FRUIT of the Spirit… & what is the SINGULAR fruit? “LOVE”… and that God-born, Holy Spirit-given LOVE clothes itself in: joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, & self control!

That is Spirit-empowered, God-given LOVE lived out… that’s the SINGULAR fruit of being “born again”, or being “born of God and knowing God.”
Have you been born again? Have you been born of God? Do you know God? The test is this: how are you doing at “loving one another”? Is your life growing in the singular fruit of the Spirit, LOVE?

Let’s continue in verse 9…
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.

Wow… there is so much here! Just skimming, what does it mean to “live through” Jesus? Some translations phrase this “have life through Him”, others “give us life through Him”, and lastly, Eugene Peterson translated it that Christ “cleared away our sin and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.”

What this appears to be a reference to isn’t something mystical, but something solid, firm, and very real – it’s a reference to Christ’s atoning work, & the life HE gave that WE WOULD TRULY LIVE again. Through what Jesus did for us, we are freed up to live for Him!

What I love about this: it’s an image of the Kingdom of God… the Kingdom has already been ushered in … and our lives in Jesus are the foretaste of what’s to come, when it comes in its fullness. The freedom we experience in Jesus is a sign for the world around us that God’s kingdom has BROKEN IN with Jesus life, death, & resurrection when Jesus was inaugurated as KING, & his Kingdom is continuing to be fulfilled through what Jesus is doing IN & THROUGH US!

And what does that in-coming Kingdom look like?

If God loved us in this way, we must love one another.

Again, it’s LOVE that is the evidence…our love proves to a watching world that God is real, & we are HIS.

If you don’t believe me, look at verse 12-14:
No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is made complete in us.This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent his Son as the world’s Savior.

The same idea continues, but here’s what’s going on…
God has loved us sacrificially, so we must love others. Then John unpacks that; No one sees God with their own eyes directly, BUT, WHEN WE LOVE ONE ANOTHER PEOPLE SEE GOD IN US… “His love is made complete in us.” This is how we know God is in us: LOVE. Love is the EVIDENCE.

Let’s skim the rest…1 John 4:16 echoes 4:8 above, stating,“God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.

I love the phrase “God is love” because I am fully & absolutely trinitarian, & as a believer in God as three-in-one, the idea that “God is LOVE” is an absolutely BEAUTIFUL one. Let’s unpack it quickly…

God IS a relationship: Father, Son, & Holy Spirit… in perfect harmony from eternity past… God exists as perfect love, which means that He doesn’t need us or depend upon us for anything. This means that his love for us is out of PERFECT OVERFLOW!

Jonathan Edwards unpacks this idea in many of his writings; God created out of the overflow of God’s love for God – that God the Father loved God the Son loved God the Holy Spirit so thoroughly that they created us “in God’s image” so that delighting in US just furthers God’s love for God.

And when we enter a relationship with God, that means something infinitely beautiful happens: we, made in the image of God the Father, are clothed with God the Son, & filled with God the Holy Spirit… when we enter a relationship with God we enter into that beautiful dance of the Trinity, wrapped up in Father, Son, & Holy Spirit… and isn’t that the SAFEST place we could ever be? OK, I’ll step back down from the heavenlies again, but wow… isn’t that BEAUTIFUL?

Verse 20 brings us back to reality in a tough way:“If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

This is a challenge for both you & I to examine ourselves. Love is the evidence of a live changed by Jesus. Like Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13, where he says we need to “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith”, or when Peter calls us in 2 Peter 1 to “be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election”. If we aren’t displaying the fruit of the Spirit, is God even in us? It’s always a worthy question to ask, but the answer should never lead us to despair, but to throw ourselves upon the mercy of Christ. Where we fall short, CHRIST! When we rebel, fall on Christ. THIS IS THE VERY CORE OF THE GOSPEL……where we don’t measure up, fall on Christ. Over & over again, & He will be faithful. 

As we choose to trust Him, and we look to Him, we are remade to look more like Him, & then… LOVE IS THE EVIDENCE. As we respond daily to the Love of God in Jesus, that love begins to overflow FROM US, & we grow in our ability to “Love One Another”… and THAT is the Evidence that God is real, & that we know Him.

So be it. Amen!

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