"love one another"

This Spring, our church as has been going through 1 John. This section of the Bible has been called by some commentators the most "love-filled" in the New Testament, with some even calling John, "The Apostle of Love." It's in 1 John that we find the famous theological phrase, "God is love" (4:8, 16). And John asserts that the most concrete picture of God's love comes in the person of Jesus - the "Word of life" who lived, died, and was resurrected to bring reconciliation to us and the whole world (2:2).

You would think an appropriate response would be to, well, love God back. You know, spend time in prayer and adoration of our Creator. Or gather together with others to worship this God of love. These responses to God's love - these spiritual experiences of connection with the divine - you'd think, would be appropriate displays of gratitude towards God. And they are. I mean even Jesus says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your sould and with all your mind" (Mt. 22:37) We can rightly use this text to justify all sorts of spiritual disciplines. But in 1 John, it doesn't directly say "love God back."

Instead, John says this over and over and over: "Love one another" (3:11,23, 4:7,11,12,21).

Hmm, church services, prayer, meditation, spiritual disciplines, etc... All these things aren't enough? Well, no, they aren't. In fact, I would venture to say our cultural tendency towards practicing "spirituality" can actually be an excuse to avoid loving others, especially people we don't like or disagree with. John has a label for Christians who don't love one another - "liars" (4:20). Failing to love one another, yet claiming to love God is inconsistent with the very nature of the God whom we serve.

So I ask: have you ever considered "loving one another" as a spiritual discipline? I mean, if we remember the rest of Jesus' words, the importance is pretty clear: "And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt:22:39). Loving others is not optional or secondary to following Jesus and loving God. Loving others is how we love God.

"Those who love God must also love one another" (4:21).

"We can love (at all) only because God loved us first. But the vital, practical test of our love for God is to be found in our love for others" (Stephen Smalley).

Oh, and I couldn't get this song out of my head after reading and studying 1 John:

"All You Need is Love"


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