These studies look at the overwhelming goodness of the Triune God. Depicted by Andrei Rublev's icon of The Holy Trinity.

1 John 4:7-12

7 Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. 9 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 loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

This is not the first time John has exhorted his readers to love one another. He says in 2:10 "He who loves his brother abides in the light," and in 3:14 "He who does not love abides in death." He encourages them to love "in deed and in truth" in 3:18. In this section, John discusses why it is so important that their relationships with one another be loving. He tells them in verse 7 that "he who loves is born of God and knows God." The person who is born of God is one who loves. This is because, John goes on to tell us, "God is love." Love is not just something God does, this is what He is, at He deepest level. God has always been love. That is who He is. God is a Trinity of relationships and love is the very heart of the universe as George MacDonald says. There is nothing deeper than love. Love has eternally existed and the whole world was created out of this eternal love. God is the author of love and because He is love, all real love involves His very being. So when we have a share in this love, it is a sign that we are born of Him, belong to him in our very nature as His children. As we love, we know Him who is love. We are created for relationship, as He is relationship. We are created to know ourselves in loving relationships with God and each other. (So no wonder Jesus sums up the whole of God's will as loving God and loving our neighbors! That's all there is!)

When John speaks about love then, he is not including everything that we as human beings call love. Since God is love we learn what love is only from Him. I know all of my relationships are somewhat mixed and confused. My love is never "pure" at this point. God has shown me and continues to show me the motives and understandings that He is removing from my life so that I can give and receive love more fully and joyfully. John says in v. 9 that God's love is made manifest among us in the sending of His only Son into the world "so that we might live through him." We learn or see this love that is God's most clearly in the sending and coming of Jesus, His uniting Himself to our fallen nature to heal us from the inside out and give us a share in the very life He has with the Father. Jesus is the "expiation for our sins" (v.10). By His life, death, and resurrection, He becomes the one who removes us from sin and heals and straightens out all that is broken in our lives. Now we live through Him, live in His life and receive His love.

So, in Jesus we see what true love is: love breaks down barriers, overcomes obstacles to come to the beloved. This love endures rejection and misunderstanding to bring about reconciliation, healing, peace, and life. In Christ, we see God's great commitment to love us to perfection, to do all that is necessary to give us the fullness of love He already knows in His triune self. True love loves to perfection and perfects all that it loves. True love will not, in the end, settle for anything less than the perfection of the beloved. He accepts us where we are only to take us to where He is: the perfection of love.

So John encourages his readers to love one another. The fact that he encourages them so much means that even though they are now born of God and do love because of this, they can be tempted to turn from their brothers and sisters in jealousy, anger, apathy, or fear. John encourages them to fully participate in God's work in their lives by choosing to live by the truth that God is love. To receive His love and to know ourselves as His children is to be freed more and more from requiring others to give us our lives or identities. Rather, we can grow in our ability to give and receive love with others and recognize them as brothers and sisters of the same loving Father. And so, we love in ways that join with God in seeing others receive God's love, hoping in and encouraging them along the way of the perfection of their love (just like John is doing in this letter!)

If God is love and the deepest reality of the universe is relationship, then that means this is what we were created for--to love each other in Christ. Heaven will simply be doing this to the fullest extent possible. At last, we will be able to truly receive and give love with no restraint, shyness, jealously, etc. Reality is ultimately relational.

But John encourages his readers to see clearly that we are not the ones who create love. How do we love one another? Some days this seems hard to do even with those who are closest to me, my own husband and children. Do we simply grit our teeth and try harder? Is it just a matter of my will?

I don't think so. Notice John addresses his readers twice as "beloved." Who are we? We are the ones who are loved by God. In verse 10 John says, "In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us ..." Love does not start with us. God has always been love. He created us in love, and He sent His only son to redeem us and make us sharers in the great love of the universe that has always existed. Our love grows as we receive this love from Him, as we open our arms and hearts and let Him love us. When I am struggling to muster up any willingness to act lovingly towards others, I need to turn to God and receive again the good news of His passionate love for me, seen in the suffering of His Son in wrestling with and destroying all that keeps me from knowing and living in God's love. When I don't do that, I am not abiding in and enjoying the truth of who God is and the life He has for me. When I choose not to have God enable me to love others, I can not know God because God is love, that is who He is and so what He is up to.

In the last verse of this section, John says that as we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. So, we participate in His work by choosing to love each other. We love each other only as we first receive God's great love for us and those around us. He will enable us to grow in our ability to love as we act out of our faith in Him and in this process He will perfect His love in us--we will indeed know a day where we live in love, moment by moment.

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