A church member once told the pastor that the church should have a sign out front warning people away, and then launched into a litany of complaints about all the problems within the congregation: gossip, cliquish mentalities, selfish behavior—and too many complainers!
How contrary this is to the picture of Christian life in today’s reading. The shining attribute of the Christian community should be love, a theme that will continue for the next few days. In fact, the community is twice addressed as “beloved” (also translated as “dear friends,” vv. 7, 11); and Scripture calls us to love one another three times in six verses.
While this should underscore the call to love one another, God’s own love is mentioned twice as much—six times! In other words, the foundation for Christian love is that “God is love” (v. 8). Central to God’s love is the coming of Jesus Christ as an atonement for sin. If we want to know anything about love, we must first look to the true source and example: the Father’s sending the Son into our world.
Notice the important connection with yesterday’s point, that those who are from God must confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. This affirmation is not merely an intellectual belief; it is the very basis of Christian communal life. When the Incarnation becomes the basis for our love, we demonstrate that we are “born of God” and know Him (v. 7). It means that “God lives in us” (v. 12). But most importantly, it means that God’s love “is made complete in us” (v. 12). That is, if people want to know God’s love, they should be able to look to God’s people as the expression of that love.