We have seen that God is love, that God’s love is shown in Jesus coming for us. We’ve seen that this love is different from the love we find in the world and that we long for it and find it as we look up. But this love cannot leave us unchanged, we are loved to love
How do we respond to such love? (11-12)“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” How do you hear and read that word ought? Do you read it as a guilt trip? As ‘here comes the catch’? Just someone else who loves you to get something he wants. That’s the way love so often works in the world. But this is a different love. John isn’t saying earn this, deserve it, pay God back. Because we can’t and God doesn’t need anything we could give him.
Look back at v7-8. We have been born of God, we’re God’s children, and love is in the family DNA. Children of God ought to love one another the way a fish ought to swim in water and an eagle ought to soar in the sky, it is what we were made for, it is what our new nature is.
Each believer, each disciple, has been loved by God; Father, Son and Spirit, and bought into a family marked by love, where such love is the new normal. And so we love because that’s what we were born again for.
In Ezekiel 36v26-27 God promised to give his born again people a new heart, a heart of flesh and not of stone. And twinned with that promises his Spirit, who moves us to keep his decrees, decrees summed up as love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbour as yourself.
This ought is the ought of a new nature, a new heart, of being born again and Spirit filled. It’s the freedom of our new nature as children of the God who is love. John is showing us our new nature, like a volunteer who has to teach a wild rescue animal their nature, how to hunt, how to hide, what dangers there are, before releasing them into the wild. This is who you are, this is what you have been born again for, this is what you were redeemed to be, this is what you will find joy in – loving one another. If we meet miserable Christians, if we find we’re miserable Christians, maybe it’s because we’re not living out who we have been born again to be – we’re not living loved and loving others.
And look at v12, as we do something amazing happened: “No one has seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” As the church loves one another like this, self sacrificially, equally, actively, it’s as if the circuit board of God’s love is made complete and the lights come on in a dazzling display of God’s love for the world to see.
But what does that love look like?
Love worships God. Maybe that is where you need to start this morning? In the midst of all the talk of what we’ve lost, what we can’t do, of restrictions, of loss we need to begin by remembering what we have. That we are loved! Our current circumstances don’t define God’s love for us, the cross does. The woman who wiped Jesus feet and poured out her offering was responding to Jesus love in worship and adoration. Will we? Amidst the lockdown, the face masks, the can’t do’s will we lift our eyes and heads this morning and see God’s love, his generosity, his lavish love in Christ and praise him.
In John 13 Jesus shows us that this love is active. He stoops to wash his disciples feet, the action of a lowly servant, and a picture of his humbling himself in cleansing them from sin at the cross and then says “A new command I give you; love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Our love of one another is to be like that, it actively serves, it sees needs and is moved to meet them. It humbles itself to serve others, that’s what John is calling these believers to, it’s a command we are to obey. Will you look for ways to do that?
But that’s hard for those John writes to. They are wounded, they’ve been hurt, they’re scared, the temptation for them is to turn inward. To withdraw from others, to look after number one. To isolate, to shield themselves, they have enough to deal with, with their own hurt and problems. But John says you were born again to love, to love actively, to love in service.
That’s a challenge always, but perhaps for us specifically at the moment. We’re tempted to look inwards, to retreat, to just our four walls and us – it’s one of the way we’re being shaped by the pandemic. Let’s be honest we’re all struggling. Parents struggling with home schooling and tiredness, and children who are out of routine and missing friends and family. Those who are single struggling with loneliness, missing the physical contact of a hug from friends or family, the normal rhythms and routines of contact and friendship. Those in teaching, or working in hospitals, or in shops, or care homes feeling the daily pressure. Those mourning the loss of loved ones. Those struggling with their own thoughts, or with loneliness, or with just the fact it all feels too much. And the temptation is that just like these readers we withdraw, we shield, we isolate, we narrow our focus, we opt out of loving others.
Don’t let the restrictions shrink your love. We’re made for community. Love this week, serve, even if you don’t feel like serving. In lifting our heads to see others, to ask how they are, what you can pray for we’ll all be helped, we see God’s love for us and to us. Don’t overwhelm yourself start small. A phone call, a walk, a card, a gift, a listening ear, a prescription picked up.
In 1 Corinthians 13 we see Paul apply love to the church in Corinth, as he shows them what such love looks like in a church. Read v1-8. It is a love that is committed, that’s present with, that is covenantal – it is always there and is revealed in the way we relate to one another, in our attitude as well as our actions.
It ought to mark out our relationships in church with one another. It ought to mark out our marriages and our pursuit of relationships. It’s a love that is enduring, permanent not liquid. Love that looks upwards and worships, and then radiates that love outwardly as it creates community, opens homes, binds up wound, welcomes the lonely, cares for the hurting.
Dearly loved ones love one another. Begin by stopping and spending some time at the cross. Staring up at the love of God. Hearing his dearly loved one. Stay there until you fell that gratitude and love welling up within you. Spend time their often. Because only that love can fuel our love of one another.