This summer, I’m sharing devotions pulled from my study What is Love? based on 1 John 4.
To download a 14-day Bible study to accompany these devotions, click here.
Loving one another—what does that mean? Most of us know that loving each other is important, that God is love and expects us to love those around us. Books cover the shelves offering different perspectives on loving those different from us, placing healthy boundaries, and dealing with the normal conflicts that arise.
Last week, we discussed the apostle John’s words about love and fear, that they cannot abide together. But we must consider the entire section together.
Love Made Perfect
If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving be me. ~W. H. Auden
Since it’s been several days, let’s back up to halfway through 1 John 4:16 and read through verse 18.
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. 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.
When John talks about punishment, he’s building off of what he just wrote. He’s talking about Judgment Day and eternal punishment. So when he says that one who fears is not made perfect in love, he’s talking about being made complete in God. About growing in knowledge and faith and trust and love.
If you abide in God’s love and allow Him to live and work in you, then you have nothing to fear from this passage. If you are living in fear like I was, God wants to release you from that, but these verses do not condemn you.
Loving One Another
Now let’s read verses 19 to the end of the chapter.
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.
These are not among the most popular verses in the Bible. In fact, most people only pull them out when you are mad at them and they want to guilt you into thinking you have no right to be angry.
But God wanted this in the Bible, and we have to deal with it. We must understand that we are accountable—to God and to each other—for growing in knowledge, faith, trust, and love. And how much we love other Christians reflects how far we are in this process. John makes it clear: Loving other Christians is a command. Non-optional.
Now—who can think of a person who irritates the dickens out of you?
Or someone that is unhealthy for you to be around? Could be physically, emotionally, or mentally.
What about someone who brings out the worst in you? Just their mere presence gets your tongue going in places your tongue doesn’t need to be going.
Loving God means loving one another
Remember Romans 8:1: There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Conviction maybe, but not condemnation.
Look again at the words John used in verse 20. Whoever claims to love God yet hates his brother.
Claims is making a boast. Hates is a choice. John is calling out the people who are unwilling to love someone or those who cannot love someone because God’s love is not in them.
He is not calling out those of us who try and fail. He’s also not dictating that we need to develop ever-deepening relationships with everyone around us. That’s both impractical and dangerous.
You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving. ~Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish novelist and poet
So let’s end on a practical note.
What does ‘loving one another’ mean for the man that makes my guard go up the moment he approaches me? He’s not a wicked man, just a know-it-all that drives me crazy. It means I work to control my tongue and ask God to increase my love for him—to move me out of tolerating him and into appreciating what God put into him, even if the man never grows past who he is today.
What does it mean for the woman who has deeply hurt a close friend of mine with harsh words? It means I don’t pick up my friend’s offense. I base the relationship with this woman based on our interactions—not her and my friend’s—balancing our relationship with the wisdom of what I know she’s done to others. In other words, I will be friendly and encouraging without trusting her with my deepest secrets.
Enjoying this series? You can purchase the study that includes discussion questions to make this all very personal and help you grow in love. It’s downloadable, so print only the pages you want. And it’s only $2!
What is love? We can give examples of love and talk about being in love, but what exactly is it? Do we have a defining moment, an ideal expression to live up to or look for? The apostle John goes deep into love in 1 John chapter 4, telling us exactly what love is.
This 14-day study includes questions to help you define what you think love is and what God may want you to do or change. Download is printable and formatted for half sheets of standard paper (5.5″ x 8.5″).