“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
1 John 4 is a must-read for anyone looking to discover what it means to be the beloved of God. Mixed among some of the most beautiful descriptions of God’s love in all of Scripture are these constant reminders of our responsibility to pass that love on. And having the Creator and Sustainer of the universe as a role model means the stakes are raised pretty high.
I find it fascinating that although this passage does go on to describe the incredible love of God, it begins with an injunction to love one another. What’s even more fascinating, however, are the lines that come directly after this command: “for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (v7).
In other words, every time I demonstrate genuine love, I’m acting out my knowledge of the character of God. I’m demonstrating who God is, and identifying myself with Him in some way, however small.
How often I forget this when I’m in a situation that requires self-sacrificing love! How quick I can be to accuse, to turn aside, or to push for my own way. Yet if I truly understand the character of God, I should realize that it doesn’t just end with me. The same God who sees me as beloved also sees them as His beloved. And so should I.
Think for a moment of someone to whom you struggle in showing love. It could be a coworker, a member of your Bible study, or a even a family member or friend. Consider the following list with them in mind:
- They are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27)
- The very hairs on their head are numbered with care (Matt. 10:30)
- God looks on them with compassion (Matt. 9:36, 23:37)
- He delights in them as His creation (Eph. 2:10)
- If they believe in Christ, they are his friend, child, and co-heir (John 15:15, Rom. 8:16-17)
How does it feel to think about them in this light? Personally, I know it is very hard to be irritated with someone, and believe them to be delighted in by God at the same moment. Taking the time to remember these truths can diffuse many of the negative or harmful thoughts we have about each other. They deserve our care and respect for no other reason than being created in the image of God.
However, I believe that to truly understand what it means to live out the “belovedness” of others, we have to take it even one step further. If every act of love becomes a tangible demonstration of the character of God, then this is a powerful way to speak of Him to those we meet. Imagine if you treated every person you saw tomorrow as if they were passionately cared for by the God of the Universe. How would that change the way you talk to the person who serves your meal, rings up your purchase at the grocery store, or fixes your leaky faucet? How would that change the way you really notice the people around you, and what needs they might have? How would that change the way you pray?
Once again, it all boils down to the character of God–a God who spontaneously, generously loves every single beautiful and broken soul he created. A God who loves purely, who hates the sin that separates us from Him, and took it upon himself to provide the solution that we could not. A God who offers this redemption freely, who asks us to love him wholeheartedly, and who is concerned with the injustice in our world and the poverty not only of tangible resources, but the poverty of love.
When faced with a love this extravagant, what else can we do but give it out?
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34