After 12/7/2011, this blog will no longer be updated, although content will remain. Please visit my new blog at Hidden Latitudes.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Repost: Love Like God, or Love of God?

Since the current debate in Christian circles centers around the love of God, I thought a couple of you might find this entry, from 2009, of renewed interest.

Perhaps the most quoted New Testament writer of all is not Paul, but the Apostle John. There are two reasons for this: John 3:16 and First John 4:8.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16
"The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." 1 John 4:8
   The former verse is, of course, a great promise to believers and unbelievers alike. The latter is a promise, too, that we will know the true spiritual state of our hearts by our actions towards others.
   Unfortunately, many (mostly those outside the faith) want to make the second verse mean something it does not. They want it to mean that "If we love, we know God." But it doesn't. If we love, we are perhaps most like God, but we do not neccessarily know Him. I may sit down and play "Yesterday" on the guitar, but I do not know Paul McCartney.
   John speaks about love a lot. Severty-nine times it is used in his writings. It is obvious that he thinks love is a paramount virtue, and evidence of a true spiritual faith. One would think the writer John would be a perfect text for those who say "the essence of spirituality is love."
   But John also says something else. In the same letter in which he wrote "God is love," he writes this:
"By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist*, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now is already in the world." 1 John 4: 2-3
Yikes! Suddenly we find that loving one another is not enough. We actually need to confess that Jesus is God, sent from God. Here's where the "God is love" crowd drops back. But in doing so, don't they really negate the love part, too? I mean, if John is dead-set on this Jesus stuff, can we trust him on the love stuff?
   Many Americans, Christian or not, simply choose to ignore the Jesus stuff. A Pew Research Center survey in 2007 found that in all major religions (including evangelical Christianity), a majority felt there were many roads to eternal life. Even our president unashamedly supports this view.  But John doesn't. And neither does the rest of the Bible.
   John sums it up this way:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:7-19)
Yes, God is love. And Jesus is the evidence. The only evidence.
W. S
*John uses the term antichrist here in a generic sense, as someone who is anti-Christ, not as some prophetic future ruler.

Illustration: Helping Hands by Nadeem Chughtai 

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