Is there a more ill-defined word than love? We use it to describe our feelings for God and for pizza, for our spouses and for sports. We use it so much that it has lost its meaning, its depth, its cost in our lives.
Within the past year, the words of 1 John have been messing with me. The Apostle John is not ashamed to use the word “love” – and he knows exactly what it means. Love changes our lives, our motives and our actions. It is not something we should enter into if we desire a comfortable life. But it is the only real evidence that we are followers of Christ. It is the most precious and most expensive thing we will ever know. John challenges us that our entire walk with God boils down to love.
Here are some observations I have made as I have meditated on John’s first letter.
- The only reason I can know love is because I am already loved by God.
- The only way I can show love is because I have seen what it looks like in Christ.
- Love crushes sin’s power: if I am living in mutual love with my Father, the love of this world will lose its grip.
- Everyday I judge the people around me as either worthy of my love or not worthy of it (I am not condoning this, I am just saying it is true).
- When I don’t know what to do, I should ask: “What does love look like in this situation?” That is the best response.
- I need to learn how to love in this moment, these people, in this place God has put me in.
- Loving God (relationship) and loving others (mission) are the core elements of following Christ.
- Spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible reading and listening to God are not legalistic performances, but they are invitations into the heart and purpose of God.
The good news is that this is not an unattainable ideal: it is a life that we are invited into. It is possible because God has touched our dead hearts and made us alive with His own Spirit, who now bears the fruit of this kind of love in us. We followers of Christ, of all people, can know and show forth what true love is to this world.