“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
1 John 4:19-21 ESV
Imagine a world without love. I’m not sure it is even possible. Love is such an ingrained part of our life. I don’t mean “ingrained” in a way that implies we are always loved in ways that are proper, perfect and good. I mean love is so ingrained in us, we need, desperately need, to love and be loved. We desire to love and be loved, but we don’t always get it right, do we?
John tells us that we are only capable of loving and being loved because we were first loved by God. Did you catch that? We are incapable of expressing or even receiving love without God first loving us. Love is only a natural part of our existence because God loved us. That means that love not only has its source in God but also its true expression and experience. We think we know all about love but what we know of love is shallow and selfish. Let me explain…
My grandson and I were playing the other day and he noticed his shadow. He’s not quite four years old and is still fascinated that he has a shadow that appears to replicate his actions. However, one thing he has noticed is that his shadow is like him but different. Sometimes his shadow is smaller and sometimes taller and it doesn’t have the same detail. It is monochrome and flat and can’t speak. So, it is a bit like him but not exactly like him.
Our ability to love is a lot like that shadow. Deep down, we know what love is supposed to look like, but our attempts at loving and being loved are selfish, flat, monochrome and really fall short of being an accurate representation of true love. In fact, our understanding and ability to love is corrupted by our sinful nature. Like the shadow’s representation of my grandson is not really accurate, our representation of love is not really accurate and representative of God’s love. However, what John is saying in his letter is that we can learn and grow in our ability to love like God and this should be demonstrated in our love for one another.
Let me close with one more observation, we often love strangers better than we do those closest to us. It seems easier to be kind, loving and forgiving to those who are a bit distanced from us while it seems harder to be kind, loving and forgiving to those we share life with on a more intimate level. However, when our love is more like God with those closest to us then we are having a much deeper impact on them spiritually. So as you prepare to celebrate Easter, remember how deeply God loved you as evidenced by the cross and then strive to love others and especially those “others” who might sleep next to you or down the hall in the same way.