Let us love
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” — John, apostle of Jesus (I John 4:7-8, NIV)
In a chapter that opens with ominous warnings about false teachers, John gives us these beautiful words, along with many others that describe love as the way to know God. For all the beauty of these words, though, they set the bar quite high. Love is not an easy task, particularly when it is commanded without conditions. We are not told to love only those who are worthy of love, nor even to love only those we know. “One another,” “everyone” and “whoever” are fairly all-encompassing terms.
Taken in the context of the entire Bible, this description becomes all the more daunting. It becomes quite clear that love is not seen as a limited or qualified thing. How could it be limited, if the surpassingly infinite being of God is love? When we read the command to love our enemies, we tend to come up with internal, possibly unconscious parameters: “Yes, but that doesn’t mean…” or “I can love someone and still…” or even “Well, that sounds good, but nobody I know can really pull it off.”
The words themselves are simple, but not easy. We are the ones who turn it into something complex, mostly as a way of dodging the frightful implications of putting the needs of others before our own desires. Some people say “all love begins with loving oneself,” and while this may be true, John pointedly says nothing here about self love. I can’t think of a time when Jesus did, either.
What’s ultimately comforting about this passage is the confident declaration that God is love. When we focus on that, we tap into the energy and power to do what seems impossible. Every day, in countless ways, the love of God is poured out through the beauty of creation and the blessings that come from the hands of creative, competent and compassionate people. When we immerse ourselves in all the manifestations of what is true, just and lovely, we naturally want to become part of that loving force.
It’s a pretty safe bet that this very day, as all others, you will be called upon to love someone else, through some big or small task, or perhaps only through patience and kind words. In fact, chances are you will be in a position to show love to more than one person, through more than one opportunity. If it seems hard, just look around you for examples. God sends us love notes on a continual basis, and if we look closely, we can learn from them. How will we be asked to love one another today? How will we respond?