Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. – 1 John 4:7-12
Our church staff experienced a significant blessing as a part of a 3dm learning community. We learned a lot together about being a disciple of Jesus. We discovered that an integrated lifestyle was one that balances love for God, life in relationships with other Jesus followers, and a commitment to God’s mission to save all people through faith in Jesus Christ. Our DCE pointed out that this was a matter of being intentional about being a disciple of Jesus.
Here John speaks of loving others intentionally as a show of our love for God. We are to “keep on loving one another” as an expression of our identity as children of God. It’s who we are: people who love because of God’s love for us. On purpose.
This is relatively easy to do when I remember who I am in Christ. When I am intentional about my identity as a child of God, a brother of Jesus, I am better inclined to love others. It’s just all too easy to become complacent about my identity, to lose sight of who I am, and to get pulled into self-serving actions and schemes. I’d rather not admit this, but I must confess: I am a sinner.
Give me a moment of Holy Spirit inspired intentionality, and I’ll go the extra mile. I’ll do the good deed. I’ll serve my neighbor. All this is not only a matter of living out my identity, though that is foundational. It is a result of God’s love to me. For I am not only a child of God, I am loved by God. And as John reminds us, “We love because he first loved us.”
God’s love was not merely a matter of disembodied good will and kind heart. It showed itself by his action. God sent his Son to atone for our sins and quell God’s wrath against us. The word John uses here is propitiation. Propitiation has the idea of a sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God. So not only does God love me, he has satisfied his own righteous wrath by punishing Jesus for my sins – and I’ve already admitted my need for that.
Perhaps I need to think about how my anger does not accomplish the righteous things God desires (cf. James 1:20). Certainly I need to be more intentional about who I am as a child of God. Thankfully I can receive God’s love and reflect that to my neighbor – intentionally.