Today’s Bible reading
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. — I John 4:16b-17
More thoughts for meditation
This week we’re trying to slow down, focus on one passage of Scripture, and let God root us once again in her love for us. Our passage for the week is I John 4:7-21. You’re invited to read the full passage each day this week, but we’re going to take it slow, focusing on just a few verses each day. Today our focus is on verses 16b-17. Recall that back in I John 4:7-8, we were reminded that God is love, and that when we love, we reveal that we know God and that we are born of God, that we are God’s children. Likewise, in verses 9 and 10, the focus was on how God shows us who she is- by sending Jesus so that we can live through him as we participate in God’s love. This is how God saves us from everything that is not love, from everything that is not God. Then, in verses 11-12, we saw how the loving community that exists amongst God’s self overflows onto creation, including humanity, and is fulfilled as we participate in that community by loving one another. And yesterday in verses 13-16a we saw how we might get caught up in the love-life of the Trinity by receiving the gift of the Spirit and therefore pointing to the Father by proclaiming the good news about the Son.
Today’s verses invite us not just to hear again, but to once again know that God is love. This takes us back to what we began working with early in the week. “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them,” today’s passage continues. Did you perhaps hear in your childhood or in the larger culture that if you want to have the life of God inside you, the way to do that is to invite Jesus into your heart by saying the “sinner’s prayer?” Was this message about how to get God in you accompanied by judgment, explicit or not, about how depraved and sinful you were? Did it come with a warning about how if you didn’t get God in you lickety-split you risked God-condoned (if not ordained) torment in hell forever?
Thank God, then, for God’s word to us in today’s passage! There are no formulas here, no calculating, no transactions to be made. Today we are reminded again that God IS love. Loving is in God’s nature. It’s who God is in God’s self. The creator God is love, and remember too that Jesus, present at creation, is the one in whom all things hold together. So Love/God is the creative force that made the universe and each of us and which continues to cause it and us to be. So then, “whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” How could it not be so?
Yet the forces of not-love/not-God, the “powers that be,” though disarmed, continue to tempt us to go along with their death-dealing ways. When we succumb to acting in ways that are not loving, we can be moved and motivated by fear, and fear, this tool of the enemy, would even have us believe that God is one to be afraid of, that God will judge us just like our parents may have, as society might, as we ourselves do. So if we know there will be an eschatological day of judgment, we are tempted to think that we can earn our way into good standing when that day comes, and may do everything within our meager power to do so.
Let the end of today’s verses be a comfort to us, then. This is no formula, no how-to manual. Instead, here is another statement that perhaps we hear best, or at least anew, when we start with the end: “In this world we are like Jesus.” Remember that God is love and we who live in love, live in God, and God in us. Remember too, once again, that Jesus is holding us together even now. When we root ourselves in that love we’re planted in, we will be like Jesus, our passage tells us, and this is how we can have confidence when God fully and finally sets all things to right. God’s love, made complete in us as it reaches its end, its purpose, in our love for one another, is the life we live in. And again as we do love one another, God lives in us, and we in God.
Suggestions for action
Keep trying our breath prayer for the week:
Inhale: God, you are love.
Exhale: When I love, I know that I’m yours.
Try to meditate using this breath prayer for five minutes or so. Then take your time and read our passage for today. If you have time, re-read verses 7-16a too and keep going all the way to verse 21. If you’re short on time, just read verses 16b-17. Take another five minutes and meditate again using the breath prayer above. As you end, reflect on your life in God, and God’s in you. Pray that love would flow through you freely to complete its purpose as you’re made like Jesus.
Today is Leo Tolstoy Day! Appreciate the art, passion and mysticism of this great Russian author and peacemaker at Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body.