Let us love

One of countless love notes from God, this one at the Montreal Botanical Garden, May 2009

One of countless love notes from God, this one at the Montreal Botanical Garden, May 2009

“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?

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

10 Comments

  1. Susan

    We need this outlook today more than ever, Julia. As always you write so beautifully with an important insight.

    • Thank you, Susan. I need the reminder more than anyone. It’s so easy to get angry when the media seem to want to fuel that anger to keep their own ratings up.

  2. Mike C

    You might enjoy the Netflix documentary ” Social dilemma.” about how the media is working hard to divide us, through algorthyms (sp)? that more and more have a life of their own.A. I etc. Everyone is hunkering down in their own tribe now and there is no conversation.

    Yesterday the AJC had an article on taking Awe walks in which you might see and appreciate something like the flower in the above shot. Yes they called them “Awe walks.”
    Things are heating up in the political races here.

    • I don’t ever watch Netflix and don’t have a subscription. I do think they premise is correct about everyone splitting off into homogenous groups with no interaction or chance for mutual understanding. This is probably a product of many trends in modern life, but the internet has undoubtedly exacerbated it. Yes, the idea of an “awe walk” is quite appealing. We pass so much by every day.

  3. Mike C

    Actually Jesus said “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” And the self love has to come first- and then moves outward,but if we don’t love ourselves i think it is difficult to love anything else.
    I think that is a Poppy or a Peonie? I am not sure.

    • Yes, but that very statement “love your neighbor as you love yourself” implies that self love is already there. He’s asking them to love the neighbor as much as they (already) love themselves — he assumes they love themselves, else why demand equal love for neighbors? Paul establishes the assumption of self love elsewhere in the New Testament, and in fact states the reverse of self love as the origin of other loves when he states (in Ephesians 5) “He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church.” Nevertheless, the “you must love yourself first of all” gospel has been dangerously disseminated by misapplication of Bible teachings and other moral codes, popularized by songs such as Whitney Houston’s hit that celebrates self-love as “the greatest love of all.” Sorry, I don’t buy that at all, and I don’t find that teaching anywhere in the Bible. Nor did it seem to work well for Whitney Houston herself, sadly. One problem is that we totally misunderstand and misuse the world “love” in modern society. We confuse self-love with self-indulgence, self-esteem, narcissism, self-importance, disregard for others and any number of damaging attitudes and conduct. Contrast this with the words of Jesus in Mark 8:34: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves…” A tough sell in our culture, admittedly, but we can’t change truth in order to make it “sell” better. Having said all of that, I agree that one cannot love others if one hates oneself, and I think that’s primarily because self-hatred is akin to other forms of desperate obsession with the self such as those mentioned above. A healthy view of the self allows a shift in focus to others, and compassion for their needs. This is hard for all of us, but a goal worth striving for.

  4. Mike C

    Yea i think it is a Peonie.

    • I do too. I’m not sure but it certainly looks like one.

  5. Mike

    Who was it who said-“Really there is no need in nature for flowers- plants don’t have to have them to carry on.”

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