Our reading this week was 1 John 4:7-21 and it’s well worth a read as a foundational statement not just of what love is but of what Christian love is; a love that has its roots in God and was demonstrated in the person of Jesus.
Whilst the world tries to flesh out what love means and looks like, we have a fully fleshed-out example of love in Jesus Christ.
It is a love of self-sacrifice that puts aside rights and privileges, comfort and security, and enters a world punctuated by violence and selfish ambition…enters not in glory but in the form of a helpless baby. It is a love that journeys with people who have turned away from God and draws them back to knowing God’s love for themselves, ultimately paying the price of death for bringing this message of hope.
That’s the kind of love we are called to.
So here are 3 possible ways we can start to explore making this radical God-shaped love a core value of who we are:
1. Nurture and deepen your relationship with God. The NIV translation of this passage mentions love/loved/loves 27 times in 15 short verses: it’s safe to say the Bible thinks God and love are deeply connected so that’s the best place for us to start. Don’t just know in your head about God’s love but remind your heart of what that feels like. As we do so, God’s love will bed itself down even more firmly in our spirit, in the very heart of who we are, directing every aspect of our life so love becomes a holy habit, not a conscious choice.
2. Allow God the right to say how this love should manifest. The biggest danger for most of us isn’t that we will fail in loving, we’re all nice people who want to live good lives, but that we will stop short, having achieved love by the world’s standards when the radical love of God was calling us further. In placing who and how we love in God’s hands, we are empowered to love the ones who are difficult to love, and to love in ways which are costly and self-sacrificing, rather than convenient and feel-good.
3. Don’t focus simply on doing acts of love but on doing all acts lovingly. Love isn’t something that God does as one of many activities – all God’s activity is loving activity because God Is Love!
What would it look like to live our whole lives lovingly? Perhaps a supermarket trip would involve asking some shop staff how they are doing and thanking them for their service, letting someone go ahead of you in the queue, buying a couple of extra things to donate to the pop-up shop. If we have love as a core value of who we are, we dare to place our whole lives at the feet of Love Himself and ask God to transform it.