I was busy preparing for Bible study—arranging comfy chairs, lighting a scented candle, laying out our curriculum—when I was overcome with love for the women in my group. We are a small group of women in our 20s and 30s. Some of us are working corporate jobs and some of us are in graduate school. Some of us are married and some of us are single. Some of us have been Christians our whole lives and some of us just recently met Jesus. Our time together is so sweet to me, and these women have taught me how to love God with my whole life.
Later that night, a woman shared that she was going to be moving soon and did not know how she was going to pack up her house, move heavy furniture, and unpack at her new place. I’m ashamed to admit that my first thought was, “Someone else can do that.” I am busy with work and school; my schedule barely has room for me to get my own annoying home tasks finished! As the room around me heartily offered to help this woman move, I realized how shallow and phony my earlier love really was.
Love requires action.
We cannot say we love other people and then refuse to serve them, sacrifice for them, and seek their flourishing. In our passage today, John gave us a sweeping and radical picture of what real love looks like. When he said everyone who loves has been fathered by God and knows God, he meant only God can give His children the ability to love others with truly self-sacrificing love. In our brokenness and sinfulness, we cannot love each other this way. We will be selfish with our relationships, seeking our own gain and disregarding the needs of others. But God gives us the Holy Spirit to indwell us and guide us to love each other with a radically selfless love.
1 John reminds us we cannot love each other like this on our own. True love is not in our love of each other or even our love of God, but in God’s love for us. God’s love required action too: He sent his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. This is the ultimate expression of true love. God could have expressed merely hypothetical love for us, feeling warm feelings about his broken creation from far away in heaven. He could have kept his distance, sending prophets to tell us He loved us without promising to do anything about our desperate situation. That is not the true love God has for us. He was not content to leave us in our suffering and brokenness, our evil and sin. His love was action, and that action was making the ultimate sacrifice for our sake.
As God has loved us, we are called to love each other. The world around us often only knows a selfish and greedy form of love: people who only spend time with you when it’s convenient for them, who only give as much as they can expect back, who want to have fun but flee when things are hard. Our love for each other—selfless, generous, active love—is a powerful witness to the world. For people hungry for real love, we can show a glimpse of the love God has shown us, and then we can introduce them to the greatest love of all.