Do you remember your first crush? Maybe even when you were in grade school? Sometimes children will send notes trying to figure out how the object of their crush feels about them. “Do you like me?” they’ll ask. Before they declare their “love” they want to be sure it will be returned.
John tells us that God loved us first, not the other way around. Today’s reading is the end of a “thought unit” in the epistle and presents three summary truths. First, “We love because he first loved us” (v. 19). We were spiritually dead in our sins, unable to help ourselves in any way. God took the initiative for our salvation. The only reason we can love God and one another is that God loved us first. The implication, then, is that we should love as He loves—not because people earn it or deserve it, but sacrificially and unconditionally. This love is motivated and empowered by God’s love!
The second truth in this passage is that we cannot claim to love God and hate our brothers and sisters in Christ (v. 20). Anyone who does so is a “liar” and a hypocrite. Their words and actions don’t match up. Logically, if they don’t love the people they can see, how can they love God whom they cannot see? If we truly love God, we will love others in God’s family.
The third and final summary truth expressed here flows from the second: We must love our brothers and sisters in Christ (v. 21). God commands it. The vertical (directed toward God) and horizontal (directed toward people) dimensions of love cannot be separated. They must be lived out together. God’s love to us should overflow to others (1 Thess. 3:12).
>> Do the people in your life know that you love them? Consider taking time today to write a note expressing your love and care for a person in your life. Doing so on an ordinary day will make it extra special.
Father, there are believers whom we find it difficult to love. Please forgive us for the hypocrisy of accepting Your love while withholding it from others. Help us love those who are difficult to love.