Today’s New Testament lesson (1 John 4:7-21) offers an extended meditation on love. We’re reminded that “everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (verse 7) and that “if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (verse 12). We’re reminded that “God is love” (verse 16) and that “there is no fear in love; but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (verse 18).
These are all beautiful and inspirational sentiments, of course. But they do create the danger that we’ll end up celebrating some warm, fuzzy, and all-too-vague notion of love rather than the other-directed and self-giving virtue that the scriptures extol. After all, preachers and teachers far wiser than me have noted that “love” is a term that gets tossed around rather lightly in our culture. We “love” our spouse and our kids; but we also “love” pizza and the latest Avengers movie. And a term that can be applied so loosely seems a far cry from what the Bible is describing when it tells us, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (verses 10-11).
At the same time, of all the biblical concepts upon which our attention could be focused, I think I prefer this one over most of the others — even if we don’t “do justice” to the costly and demanding love that we’ve received and are called to emulate. Occasionally, I’ve come across references to a legend from the early church, which says — that when the Apostle John was near the end of his life — he had to be carried to the church in the arms of his disciples. At these meetings, he would usually say no more than, “Little children, love one another!” And after a time, the disciples — who were tired of hearing the same thing over and over — said, “Master, why do you always say this?” And he replied, “It is the Lord’s command. And if this alone be done, it is enough!”
May love be enough for us today, as we both receive the love of God and share the love with others.