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Love Is Not Optional

1 John 4:19-21
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (NIVUK)

Love, that deep personal desire to give ourselves to meet the needs of another, must be expressed in service … or it is not love. Our model is God. We only know what real love is because He has loved us, by sacrificing Jesus Christ so that we might have eternal life. And it is only because He lives within believers that they can understand and practise their life's calling to love others.

There cannot be any distinction between loving God and loving His children. If there is, something is wrong. The false teachers of John's day claimed that love is pure when believers were devoted to worship the invisible God, but physical expressions of love to other human beings in providing food and shelter were unspiritual and not really love at all. John strongly countered that wrong doctrine.

To claim to love God but hate His children is nonsense. Loving God always includes loving His family. In many ways it is easier to serve people you can see. Apart from that, divine love is not a mystical experience for the spiritual elite but down-to-earth practical service. The final argument John uses is that practical need-meeting love is not an option but a command (John 13:34-35). Love, for Christian brothers and sisters, was to be the primary evidence that they belonged to the family of God.

Some people are easy to love because they respond warmly and with gratitude. But did we always respond to God like that? No! And yet He persisted in loving us. Indeed, His greatest sacrifice took place before we could ever express our need or appreciate what Jesus had done (Romans 5:8). That is how we need to love too, even if we never get a positive response. Is it easy? No! But it is necessary; and we can only do it if we keep drawing on the love God has for us. Don't forget, that kind of love is not optional but a command.

Dear loving Heavenly Father. Thank You for loving me, especially when I did not realise or appreciate what You have done for me. Thank You for persisting until I responded to Your love. Forgive me for worshipping You with delight but ignoring the needs of Your children. Please teach me to love like Jesus loved so that Your family may rejoice together in You. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams