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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | 1 John 4:7–21

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (NRSV)

The book of 1 John is often called “the love epistle” for reasons that take about thirty seconds to understand. You spend those thirty seconds reading chapter 1 (a trim ten verses), and then the love begins in earnest with chapter 2. In 1 John’s last four chapters, “love” appears thirty times (six in the address to the audience, “beloved”).

Perhaps the most memorable of those uses is in verse 8 of chapter 4: “God is love,” which is then repeated in verse 16. For many, these three words contain all of faith and the Bible.

I once heard a preacher caution against a too-vigorous critique of proof-texting, that convention by which a person quotes the Bible chapter-and-verse as proof in an argument, without any context. It’s an uncritical way of using scripture to back up your own opinion. Thoughtful people shouldn’t do it, especially with verses that don’t enjoy frequent biblical repetition.

Yet this preacher observed that “God is love” only appears in two verses of the Bible, and yet—thankfully!—the church has got mileage out of it.

It’s the ultimate proof text. But let’s be sure not to strip “God is love” of its context and the critical description of what that love actually does. It sends us Jesus to give us life. And let’s not skip past what “God is love” requires of us: that we love one another.

Loving God, your love seeks us before we ever have a thought of you. Love is your love for us, for you are love. In gratitude we love in return. Help us to love one another. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

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