by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC, Mental Health Coach,
Keynote Speaker, CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries
Week 4 of Advent: Love
The clear message of this passage is that we are to love one another and why we are to love one another. And the reason is simple…. because God is love. But let’s face it. Most human beings find it difficult to love the people we consider “unlovable.” Most of us love others that are close to us – our friends, family, and close friends. But what happens when they do something to wrong us or hurt us? Well, we typically stop loving them and move quickly to hating them. The truth of the matter is we love others on a conditional basis. When those conditions are broken, we chose to stop loving them.
The very unfortunate misconceptions about love
In some ways our misconceptions about love are not our fault. We can easily blame Disney and Hollywood for giving us how we have come to view this emotion. Disney gives us the fairytale love that ends with “and they lived happily ever after.” But when life isn’t happily ever after, we are heart broken and decide this isn’t love. So we dump that person and move on to the next, ever chasing the dream of “happily ever after.”
But then there’s Hollywood love, which isn’t love at all. It’s more appropriately named, “lust.” In this concept, love is based on attractiveness, sexual appeal and the like. Then when age sets in and the numbers on the scales go higher, the hair starts turning gray, the body starts sagging, well we “fall” out of love and trade the current “love” in for a younger, more attractive model.
Why we have such a hard time understanding love
If we truly want to experience and know love, then we have to recognize the order that is found in 1 John 4:7-8. It tells us that love is from God. So if we do not know nor experienced the unconditional love of God, there is no way we can truly love someone else. That’s what these verses tell us.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
When we jump down to verse 19, we find that we love because he first loved us. And in verse 11, it says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Why? Because love is from God. In other words, it originates and comes from God first. It does not originate in us.
God first loved us because God is love
Because God loved us first, we are then called to respond in love towards others. None of us are deserving of God’s love. We are all broken by sin. We all fall short of the glory of God. But yet despite or brokenness and sinfulness, God chooses to love us anyway. If we can truly grasp the enormity of God’s grace and love towards us, then the only right response is to extend the same grace and love to others. If we do, there there should be no racial divisions, murder, abuse, deceit, and the like. Because we do not do these types of behaviors towards those that we truly care about.
God’s Love Manifested
We celebrate Christmas because God’s love was manifested among us (verses 9 &10). The word, “manifest” means to display or show a quality or feeling by one’s acts, to demonstrate, to show evidence or prove. So John, then, is saying, “Do you want to know what love is about?” And then he begins to explain it to us and his explanation is the whole reason we celebrate Christmas…because God sent his only Son into the world.
So then if we were to ask John today, “John, what is love?” He would explain it as, “Love is Christmas.” It is God sending his Son into this world to die for us and pay the price for our sin so that we can know God, have a relationship with God, and live with God for all eternity. Because we were lost in our sins and on the path for eternal death and separation from God, God chose to do the loving thing and sent Jesus so that we could live (verse 9).
Jesus’ purpose was established before His birth
As we look at the Christmas Story, we find that even before Mary gave birth, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-22). He accomplished his purpose when he died on the cross and rose again from the grave.
Jesus was the propitiation for our sins
1 John 4:10 tells us the God sent Jesus to be the propitiation for our sins. That is not really a word we throw around in our everyday vocabulary. So, what does it mean? Basically, it is a word that means “appeasing the wrath.” Because each one of us chose the path of sin at some point very early in life, God was angry with because of our sin. The wrath of his fury was on us.
Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. But when Jesus sacrificed his life in our place, God’s wrath was turned into peace. So now, when we place our faith in Christ, God is no longer angry with us. Instead, He delights in us. Our sins are forgiven because Jesus took upon himself the wrath of God that should have been ours. Propitiation, then, occurs when one’s anger has been turned into love. And that is what the cross does for us. It turns God’s wrath for our sin into love and grace. Because the payment for our sin was made by Jesus, we can then be forgiven of our sin. However, we must accept this propitiation as a free gift. It isn’t ours until we reach out accept the gift Jesus offers to us.
Love: It’s what Christmas is all about
True life comes through Jesus Christ. In fact, Jesus said that true life comes only through him. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). If you want ultimate life, it comes through Jesus. It comes through faith in him. There’s no other way. And because God loved us first, we have the greatest gift of love through Jesus.
That’s what Christmas is about.
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God, Love and Marshmallow Wars by Julia M. Bruce
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