In 1984, Tina Turner released a song called “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” In the song, it appears that she counsels people about falling in love, which is only a second hand emotion. A lot of popular songs deal with the issue of heartbreak and the problems caused by what the world calls love. As we look at I John as a whole, and especially the verses for this week, John would answer Ms. Turner with one simple word: “Everything!” Of course, John’s understanding of love was quite different from what society views as love. In John’s understanding, true love springs from God. It’s sacrifical. It cares for others. It supports others. So, what’s love got to do with life? How should it influence our behavior? God’s love flowing through us to people around us should be a transforming power that draws people to live in God’s love themselves.
11. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
As we think about the great love that God has for us, it’s unconscionable to imagine Christians not loving each other. Yet, we pick at each other for so many different, unimportant reasons. God didn’t wait for us to agree with Him before He showed His great love in sending Jesus to die for us, He showed us that He loved us with an irrevocable love that overpowered all of our sinful inclinations. He loves us without reservation. He sacrificed that which was most precious to Himself in sending Jesus to die for our sins. Were John to look in on us today, he might ask, with a tinge of sarcasm, “Oh, so your brother doesn’t believe the same as you? That’s a good reason to hate him?” We must have an outpouring of love among God’s people. As we deal with a world that’s becoming more hostile to Christians, we’ve got to love each other and stick together.
12. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
John points out that no one has seen God. OK, we might argue a bit on that point if we think about the disciples seeing God the Son and Moses seeing the glory of God pass by him, but the point is that in our world today, no one has seen God. What we can see is the effect God has on us. Jesus used the wind blowing as an example of people born in the Spirit (John 3:8) and I imagine John thought about that here. We can’t see the wind, but we can experience the effects. We can’t see God, but we can experience the effect He has on us. If God lives in us, then it follows that we’ll be able to love like He does. If we don’t have that love, we need to re-examine our faith.
13. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. 14. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. 15. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
In the example mentioned earlier (John 3:8), Jesus talked about being born of the Spirit. Here John helps us to understand what it means. We know that we live in Him because He’s given us His Spirit. Because the Spirit of God lives in us, we see ad understand that the Father sent the Son (Jesus) to be the Savior of the world. It all comes down to our confession that Jesus is the Son of God. In times contemporary with John, Roman citizens and subjects were required to visit an altar to Caesar and sacrifice a pinch of incense while saying the words “Caesar is lord.” If you made that confession, you got a certificate letting the authorities know that you had followed the prescribed pattern to be considered a good subject of Rome. One of the reasons Christians were persecuted is that they refused to make that confession, and instead confessed that Jesus alone was Lord. John’s words here told people that they need to be willing to undergo all kinds of persecution for refusing to follow the rules of government by following the love and grace of God. Christians did not go along to get along with society. They confessed that Jesus is Lord and endured the hardships that came from that declaration.
16. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 17. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. 18. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
The truth is, it’s all about love: God’s love for us. That’s the beginning of our relationship with God. That’s the power that sustains us in our daily life. That’s the promise of our home in heaven with Him. God’s love gives us the power to stand up to the demands of society and obey God rather than what society demands. God’s love allows us to live in obedience to God, not out of fear but out of joy. We can be bold in our actions as we live in the love of God. God’s love works with man and we can be bold in the day of judgment, whether that judgment be the ultimate judgment in heaven or the possibility of facing earthly authorities who think they have power over us. Jesus reminded us not to fear the one who can kill the body (Matthew 10:28) but Him who can kill the soul. If we are living in the love of God, we don’t even fear Him.
19. We love him, because he first loved us. 20. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21. And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
Why do we love God? We love Him because He first loved us. This isn’t like romantic love where love grows slowly as the couple gets to know each other. My wife and I have been married for over forty years. I asked her which of us loved the other first. She laughed. Our love started slow and grew as we spent time together. I think both of us would say that we never loved each other as much as we do now, and that will be overshadowed by our love in the future. God showed His love for us in that while we were still full of sin and separated from God, Christ died for us. He loved us with all of His being before we ever thought about searching for Him – and the truth is, we may think we looked for Him, but God’s been seeking us from the beginning of our lives on earth. The result should be that because we love God, we show it in the way we love our brothers and sisters in Christ. John dealt with people who claim to love the concept of God, whom they haven’t seen, while having contempt for others because they weren’t the right kind of people. Our lives should reflect the love of God for all people. It’s crazy, but we have a lot of people who claim to follow God but continue to look for exceptions to the call for love based on their ethnicity, skin color, or even their particular sin. This is the rule I have for myself: I’m allowed to hate the people that God hates but get to love all the people God loves. We could discuss how that love looks, but our actions toward others should always spring from God’s love. If we love God, we’ll love His people also.