Just a quick note. There were some verses in chapter 4 that I skipped last time and I really want to get back to. But before I go there, I want to complete my thoughts from yesterday.
As I said yesterday, if we truly know and love God, love for others should be the natural outgrowth that comes from that. For as John says,
Everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. (5:1)
And as John said at the end of chapter 4, how can we claim to love our heavenly Father who we cannot see and not love his children who we can see. (4:20)
Still, this is not to say that if come to know Christ, we will automatically love everyone God puts in our path. The fruit of love is like all other fruits of the Spirit. It takes time to grow. And yet…it should grow.
Verse 2 here is very interesting. John tells us,
This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. (5:2)
From what we saw in chapter 4, we would have expected John to say the opposite. That is, “This is how we know that we love God: by loving the children of God.”
But instead, John says, “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.”
It’s almost the same, but there is a subtle difference between the two. The difference is the focus.
In the first, we put our focus on trying to love others as proof that we love God. And that can be a burden, because not all of his children are so lovable.
But in the second, the focus is not on loving the children of God, but on loving God. He, not others, is the focus. But in focusing on God, his love for us, and our love for him, we naturally start wanting to do the things that please him. And so we keep his commands. What are the two greatest commands? To love him first and foremost. And then to love others. So again, by focusing on loving God first, love for others becomes the natural outcome.
It also becomes less of a burden to love others when we put our primary focus on God. Why?
By focusing on God, we come to know his love for us more deeply. And as we drink in of his love more deeply, as I said yesterday, our whole perspective changes. Our perspective on ourselves changes. And our perspective on others changes.
We no longer judge ourselves or others by our or their loveliness. Rather we see ourselves and others through the eyes of God. And he sees through all the ugliness that mars us to the true image of himself that he instilled in us from the very beginning. And when we see that image, it makes it easier to love ourselves and others.
That’s why John can say of keeping God’s commands, and especially of keeping the command to love,
His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (5:3-4)
Everyone born of God grows in their knowledge of his love for them, and it is only natural that they respond with love back for him and for others. The result? We overcome sin in our lives. We overcome hatred. We overcome everything that the world throws at us because it hates us.
But remember the key.
Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (5:5)
How about you? Do you believe that Jesus is God’s Son? That God loved you enough to send him to die for you? That is the truth you need to soak yourself in. For if you do, it will change your life.