“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7 (NIV)
Entering into this holiday season, WordBytes has shared two mindsets that will help us understand what really makes this time of the year special—relationships and gratitude. This shift in thinking requires that we look beyond ourselves to more intentional expressions of kindness to others. We close this series on preparing the heart for the holidays with our last mindset, which Paul describes as the “bond of perfection” (Col. 3:14)—the thing that holds everything together—love.
The first Bible verse a child usually learns is “God is love.” As that child grows, his understanding of God’s love is expanded by personally observing acts of kindness in the world. How does God disseminate His perfecting love into the world?
God loves us first. “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God is the source of love and therefore, He is the starting point of love’s entrance into the world. God’s love for us began in eternity when He gave thought to man. He created man His own image. That endowment was given to no other creature of God’s making. God gave of Himself—His own breathe (Gen. 2:7). He gave man His essence including freewill. He then blessed them and gave them dominion over the whole of creation (Gen. 3:27, 28).
We love God back. “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). Once we receive the revelation of God’s love for us (Ep. 1:17), it becomes possible for us to return God’s love to Him. When we love God, He comes to live in us through the Holy Spirit (further evidence of His love). We return God’s love through our obedience to His commandments (1 John 5:3) and our willingness to serve others (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
We love others like God. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:11). Jesus was asked by a devious lawyer, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matt.22:35-40). His response reflected His Father’s heart—love God first, others second. God’s love is perfected in us as we love others more than ourselves (1 John 4:12, 17). “Perfected” (teleioō) means to reach a goal or to be complete. As believers love others like God, they begin to reach their goal of spiritual maturity and become effective ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20).
We love God together. “Herein is our love made perfect…because as he is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17). After Jesus washed His disciples feet (John 13:1-20), He gave them a new commandment that they love one another. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). The greatest witness to God’s love is how believers care for one another “in community”. It is not the geographic area that I’m speaking of, nor denomination, nor the universal church. God’s love in community is authentic fellowship with other believers, experiencing true joy from being in each other’s presence. As we love God together in community, we show how the love of God looks in the “real” world.
God’s love released into the world bears resemblance to a large stone dropped into a quiet lake. Upon entering the motionless water, the stone creates a series of circular ripples that flow in all directions, outward from its initial source. That’s how God’s love enters the world. God is the Rock (He first loved us) and we are the resulting ripples created by the impact of His love—returning His love to Him, to others, and in community.
Powerful relationships and gratitude in action spring forth from God’s perfecting love. As we prepare our hearts for the holidays, let’s exchange the worldview of “holiday cheer” with “God’s gift” of love and good will toward men. God’s gifts will continue to return great joy and peace throughout the year and for years to come.
SELAH: Read 1 John 4:7-16, “The Source of Love”. In your first reading, make a note of the “words or phrases” that catch your attention. Read it a second time. Feel free to use a different translation or paraphrase; list “the emotions” you feel in your reading. (Awareness of Feelings). Then read the text a final time and ask Jesus to share what is your “invitation for the day” from Him. An invitation is a “personal” message, instruction, or encouragement JUST FOR YOU (versus a general application of Scripture).