Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Category: 1 John 4:7-21 (Page 1 of 2)

November 22, 2020 — Get Un-Stuck

Today’s Bible reading

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. — I John 4:19-21

More thoughts for meditation

This is the final day in our deep dive this week into the ocean of God’s love as expressed in I John 4:7-21. You’re invited to read the full passage again, but our focus today is just on verses 19-21. Recall that we started in I John 4:7-8, where 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. 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. In verses 16b-17 we were reminded that when we root ourselves in a life of love we root ourselves in Jesus, in God who is rooted in us, and so we are like him and can have confidence when God finally sets all things to right. Finally, yesterday in verse 18 we saw that the love of God which has reached its end, its purpose, in our love for one another is perfect and complete, leaving no room for fear.

We end our week of swimming in the ocean of God’s love in a place very similar to where we started, being reminded that God has first loved us, and so we love. It is fitting that our discussion should come back round to its beginning. Throughout the week we’ve worked with various images to help us live into this story we participate in, the story of God’s love. One of those images is that of the “divine dance,” which hints at the love that exists within God’s self as Father, Son, and Spirit. This love has no end, making this a circular dance. So thinking of movement in a circle can be helpful. Love moves from Father, to Son, to Spirit and back round again, but still is not contained as it overflows to creation and God’s children, where the circle is made complete in our love for God and one another. 

It may be obvious, then, that we cannot participate in this divine dance, this overflowing love from God to us and from us to one another and back to God again, while simultaneously harboring hate for a brother or sister. Just as perfect/completed love drives out fear, living in the love-life of God in us and us in God leaves no room for hate. Let’s skip to the end again and look at that “must” in verse 21: “Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister,” the writer of John tells us. But again, as we’ve previously discussed this week, to say that those who love God with the love God gave first must love one another is like saying that the sun must shine. It is unlikely that it continues to do so out of a sense of obligation. Rather, the sun shines because that’s what suns do. We, then, who have first been loved by God and love him in return, love also each other, because that’s what we who are children of God do

Moreover, there’s some language in verse 20 about that which is seen and that which is not: “For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” We do well here to remember our discussion earlier in the week of verse 12: “No one as ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” When we participate in the love-life of God, that love will reach its end; it will achieve its purpose- our love for one another. When we do this, we are ever more aware of the God-life in us and of our life in God. This is how God is seen and known: we see our brother and sister, and we love them. After all, “everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” Thanks be to God!

Suggestions for action

Let’s end the week with our breath prayer one last time:

Inhale: God, you are love. 

Exhale: When I love, I know that I’m yours.

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 7-18 too. If you’re short on time, just read verse 19-21. Take another five minutes and meditate again using the breath prayer above. As you end, let the light of God’s love in you illuminate any hidden hate you may harbor for a brother or sister. If “hate” feels like too strong a term, ask God to reveal anyone for whom the love of God in you feels stuck. Pray that God would help you release or lay down whatever is causing this stoppage, and then trust God as you reach out to them this week in love. 

Today is C.S. Lewis Day! honor the great thinker, imagineer and apologist at Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body.

November 21, 2020 — The Light of God’s Love

Today’s Bible reading

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. — I John 4:18

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 just on verse 18. 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. 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. And finally in verses 16b-17 we were reminded that when we root ourselves in a life of love we root ourselves in Jesus, in God who is rooted in us, and so we are like him and can have confidence when God finally sets all things to right.

Our verse today invites us to double down on that confidence. “There is no fear in love,” we’re reminded, because “perfect love drives out fear.” God is love, and we who are rooted in that love-life live in God, and God in us. So love is the house we live in. It’s the air we breathe. It’s the ocean we’re immersed in as we plumb its depths. Think of the way light works. Its absence serves to hide and obscure what is there. Without light, what is present cannot be seen. When there is light, it makes plain what is there. It makes visible that which was hidden. Love and fear might be seen this way too. Remember that God’s love achieves its purpose, its end, is made complete and therefore “perfect,” in the receipt of love by the beloved. God is love and is always loving; we are the beloved and are always loved. Nothing can change this.

But fear, when indulged, would seek to obscure this essential loveliness of God and our essential character as the beloved, like the absence of light hides the truth of what is there. When we lose our awareness of who we are as the beloved, we not only diminish ourselves, but God is obscured in our gaze. We revert to seeing God essentially not as a lover but as a judge who will punish us for our imperfections. And this is why it is crucial to understand that “perfection,” as has been alluded to previously this week, can mean that which is complete, fulfilled, having achieved its end. Recall from earlier in the week that God’s love is made complete, fulfilled, and perfect in us when we love one another. So the love of God reaches its end as we love each other. In doing so, we are “in the light;” we see the truth of ourselves and of God. We know who we are, and who God is. Therefore, we do not fear.  

Suggestions for action

Keep trying this breath prayer that we’ll practice this 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 7-17 too and keep going all the way to verse 21. If you’re short on time, just read verse 18. Take another five minutes and meditate again using the breath prayer above. As you end, pray that the light of God’s love would shine brightly within you as you love those around you. Let that light expose any places within you where fear may hide, and then watch it dissipate like light dispels the shadows. Be confident that fear has no place in your love-life with God. You can rest in this.  

November 20, 2020 — Be Like Jesus

This week we’re immersing ourselves in the ocean of God’s love.

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.

November 19, 2020 — Live in Love

When the first Christians said Jesus was the “son of god,” they meant that Caesar was not.

Today’s Bible reading

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. — I John 4:13-16a

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 13-16a. 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. Yesterday, 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. 

In today’s verses we see how we might participate in the “divine dance” of the love among Father, Son, and Spirit, which is at work in us. We receive the gift of the Spirit as evidence of the Father’s life in us and our life in the Father. Out of this, we testify that the Father sent the Son to save the world. So perhaps you can see this movement, this dance, this flow of energy and love as the Spirit is given to us, and then we point to the Father by proclaiming the good news about the Son. In verse 15, then, there’s another “if” that some Christians tend to get hung up on: “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.” Remember that this week we are working not to approach Scripture as if we are “subjects” attempting to achieve mastery over an “object” as we interpret it. Instead, our aim is to immerse ourselves in this one longer passage, like scuba divers plumbing the depths of the ocean of God’s love.  

Bearing that in mind, it is perhaps easier to see how the English language mechanics of dependent clauses and the like might trip us up. When, instead, we’re immersed in God’s love made complete in our love for one another, we can come at this the other way round. God’s loving community lives in us and is found in our loving community with one another; so then, it is natural that out of that immersive experience of being that we would acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God, our rightful King and Lord and the only one worthy of such titles. Earlier in the week we talked about the sun shining not because it ought to but because that’s what suns do. Likewise, we acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God simply because that’s what we who live in God, and in whom God lives, do. “And so,” of course “we know and rely on the love God has for us,” as today’s part of our longer passage ends.

Suggestions for action

Keep trying this breath prayer that we’ll practice this 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 7-12 and keep going all the way to verse 21. If you’re short on time, just read verses 13-16a. Then take another five minutes and meditate again using the breath prayer above. As you end, ask God to make you aware of the gift of the Spirit in a new way. The Spirit is our Comforter. Receive the comfort God has for you as a tangible reminder of your life in God and God’s life in you. Pray about who you might share this life and love with, to whom you might acknowledge that Jesus is your ruler, not any president, king, or other power. Rely on God’s love as you speak this truth.

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