How would you finish that statement? It seems to me that the natural thing would be to end the statement with “love him.” But that’s not what the Text tells us in 1 John 4 v.11, the writer finishes the statement with “love one another.” I believe there are several layers to what the writer is trying to get at.
Layer #1: Yes, God’s love for us should propel us to “love one another.” As we experience the reality of God’s grace we should extend that to those around us. Who is included in “those around us” or “one another”? To what degree have faith communities, in general, only extended that love to those in the faith community? Jesus made it clear that we must “love our neighbor” which goes well beyond the simplistic boundary of only those within the faith community.
Layer #2: Perhaps we need to see and hear “since God so loved us” as referring to more than simply you and I. What difference would it make in us if we truly see and hear that as God loving those around us, regardless of who they are? “Dear friends, since God so loved the marginalized, we also ought to love them.” Perhaps the writer is saying that because God loves all people, it should propel us to love them as well. God’s love for others, including us, makes one lovable. His love for people makes them valuable. Too often in our culture people only love those that can add value to their life but in God’s Kingdom people have value because they are loved by Him and should be loved by his followers. I can’t help but think of Mother Teresa. She loved God but she didn’t care for all the people she cared for simply because she love God. She cared for them because she loved them. Mother Teresa saw God’s deep love for them which in turn propelled her to seek to love them the same way.
Last week I returned from a mission trip to Elbert, WV with my family. The question that is still rolling around in my head is: did I do that trip as a duty to God or out of love for the people of Elbert? Is there a difference? I think so. On my return trip home, I wasn’t even in my truck more than hour until I began thinking about the day I could return. My hope is that my return will be because I “see and see” and “hear and hear” what is means “since God so loved us, we ought to love one another.”
What thoughts do you have? What is God saying to you? Who comes to your mind? What questions are rolling around in your head?