In 1995 the BBC’s Martin Bashir interviewed the late Princess Diana, mother of William and Harry. The interview centred on the breakdown of her marriage to Prince Charles. With her most famous quote being ‘Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” The heartbreak of unfaithfulness. Of love lost and lives broken.
Another famous quote from that interview also has to do with Diana’s reflections on love or lack thereof. Here’s what she said. ‘I think the biggest disease the world suffers from in this day and age is the disease of people feeling unloved.’
Mother Teresa, who famously worked among India’s destitute and starving, said. ‘there is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.’
Money can’t buy love. Success, power, beauty can’t buy love.
God created us to love and be loved.
And, though we live in a world that’s ‘in love’ with ‘love’, it’s a world that’s so often experienced as loveless.
In western culture our concept of love is very vague and a clichéd sentiment. With the technological explosion and the all pervasiveness of social media – Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp, TikTok – came the promise of community and connectedness.
It was an empty promise. The average person spends 145 minutes daily, almost 2½ hours, on social media. And yet numerous studies show it’s made loneliness an epidemic. The ‘disease’ of feeling unloved.
Technologically connected. Relationally disconnected.
Which really presents the Christian church with an opportunity. To model love. And show love. To showcase a truly connected, caring, loving community.
Which is what God commands us to do. To love one another.
Now there were teachers who’d come along and were saying things such as; ‘Jesus is a good guy, but He can’t save you.’ ‘Yeah be nice. But it doesn’t matter too much. ‘cos sin isn’t too serious.’ ‘and love. Yes. But it doesn’t mean it’s got to cost you anything.’
These guys we’re doctrinally in error, morally indifferent, and as for love, they cherry-picked who to love and how.
Which caused havoc. As their teaching sowed seeds of doubt.
Some believers were feeling unsettled, uncertain and unloved. So John writes to re-assure them with the facts. They know God, they’re loved by God, they’re saved by God.
And John punts 3 proofs for genuine Christian faith. The Jesus test. The moral test. And the love test. The ‘Jesus’ test. Believing Jesus is Lord. The ‘moral’ test. Living in the light? Righteous? And the ‘love’ test.
As we work our way up the spiral staircase of John’s letter and stop to take in the view, we come repeatedly to windows that look out onto love.
Today’s window is this passage that deeply and richly unpacks love.
Each bookend of our passage mirrors the same command. love.
Verse 7, “Dear friends, let us love one another “
And then verse 21, “[He’s] given us this command: Anyone who loves God must love their brother and sister.”
In fact, the command is there in verse 11 as well.
Verse 11, “Dear friends, we ought to love one another.”
Love love love. Why should we love? What’s at stake? For you, us, the world?
Why love? John’s got good reasons.
For starters, the source of love.
We sing about it, pine over it, lose sleep over it, fill our waking minds with it. but. We are not the author or origin of love.
Verse 7, “love one another, for [here’s a reason, for] love comes from God.”
The best advice on love won’t come from Oprah or Dr. Phil. Or Hollywood or magazine columns or internet blogs. Or even friends or family.
Whatever insights any of these sources might have about love depends solely on the extent to which they reflect what God says. ‘cos God is the source of all love.
Love is not man-made.
It’s not an evolutionary development.
It’s an accident of chance.
It’s not a social construct.
Love has it’s origin in the divine.
Verse 10, “[it’s] not that we loved God, but that he loved us.”
Verse 19, “We [only] love because He first loved us.”
He is the author of love. The source of love.
Which is brilliantly summed up in a 3 word statement twice repeated.
End of verse 8. Three words, “God is love.”
And mid verse 16, “God is love.”
John isn’t saying that we can describe God entirely by the word ‘love’. He’s also not saying that love trumps all other attributes of God.
Rather, he’s making the point that God is the origin of love.
It’s not that ‘love is God’, but that ‘God is love.’ It’s a statement about God! That His very nature is to love. All His words and actions are marked by love. There’s no true love apart from God.
God and love are intrinsically linked.
As John Piper, a Christian speaker and author, says; “Love is from God the way heat is from fire, or the way light is from the sun. Love belongs to God’s nature. It’s woven into what He is. It’s part of what it means to be God.”
What picture do you hold of God in your head? Some might think of God as a stern schoolteacher who scolds us as a means to make us do better.
But that’s not God at all. The God of the Bible, the true and living God, is personal, relational. He made you with love. And He passionately loves whom He has made. He knows us intimately, every hair on your head, every thought, every failing, every heartache, every sin, every struggle. And He loves you.
As Sally Lloyd-Jones puts it in ‘the Jesus Storybook Bible’. ‘God loves you with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.’
Well, if God is the source of love, then what is love?
How has He showed love? This is how! Verse 9, “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: [verse 10] not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
God shows what love is by giving himself for us. giving himself to us.
He sent His one and only Son to die that we might live through Him.
During World War I there was a young Irish soldier, Private Billy McFadzean, 20 years of age. He was in a trench with others of his regiment when a box of ammunition was knocked over. And scattered everywhere. To his horror he saw 2 hand grenades whose safety pins had been dislodged.
Without a moment’s hesitation Billy McFadzean flung himself onto the grenades. He was blown to pieces, killed instantly.
Yet miraculously, his body shielded the full blast. None of the scattered ammunition was set off. And the lives of every other man in that trench was spared.
McFadzean gave his life for his comrades. Each of them were able to say; ‘i am alive because Billy McFadzean died for me.’
Jesus, on the cross, took the full blast of God’s anger and judgement.
We deserved to die, but Jesus gave His life, that we might live.
The Father gave His Son. Out of love for us. Jesus gave His life. Out of love for us.
“Jesus is,” verse 10, “an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
He offers Himself up to death, taking our place and the punishment our sin deserves, so as to avert the wrath of God. That we may be forgiven. And saved.
Verse 14, “the Father sent His Son to be the saviour of the world.”
We don’t deserve to be saved. We don’t deserve His love. We don’t earn His love.
Verse 10, “[It’s] not that we loved God, [it’s] that he loved us.”
Verse 19, “he first loved us.”
God loved us when we hated Him. Jesus died, not for comrades, but enemies.
Romans 5:8 “While we were [still] sinners, Christ died for us.”
God’s love for us in based on his character, not ours. It’s not because we’re lovable. It’s ‘cos He loves. He is love.
You see, God’s love isn’t sentimental or clichéd. It’s selfless. Costly. Practical. Unconditonal. God’s love stops at nothing to rescue us.
‘how deep the father’s love for us. How vast beyond all measure. That he should give His only Son to make a wretch a treasure.’
Do you ever doubt God’s deep deep love for you personally? Look at the cross! Are you ever tempted to think you’re a nobody, unloved, worthless? Look at the cross! You ever think you’ve done something so bad you’re disqualified. You could never be loved by God? Look at the cross.
Commanded to love by Him who is love, the source of love and who reveals what love is.
Now John also speaks of love being completed. Completed? What’s he mean?
Again there’s 2 statements that act as bookends. At the end of verse 12, “His love is made complete in us.”
And verse 17, “love is made complete among us.”
Love. Complete in us. And among us.
I think for love to be made complete means.
One. God’s love is in us. Two. God’s love in us and among us is seen by others. It’s our experience of God’s love, and our expression of His love.
a. God’s love in us
First. God’s love in us.
Verses 12-13, “His love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and He in us “
And then end of verse 16, “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete “
When God lives in us, we live in love.
When we live in love, God lives in us.
Put simply. God residing in us produces and completes love in us.
And we know God lives in us ‘cos of the gift of the Spirit. And our confession of Christ.
Verse 13, “This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of His spirit.”
And that gift goes hand in hand with believing Jesus is Lord. Verse 14, “we testify that [God’s] Son [is] the Saviour of the world.”
Verse 15, “If anyone acknowledges [confesses] that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.”
Love is made complete by God indwelling us by His Spirit and, us relying on His Son who saves.
b. God’s love in us is seen by others
Love experienced. And secondly, the love we experience is expressed. God’s love in us is seen by others.
God shares His love with us, works His love in us, and shows His love through us.
Our love makes the invisible visible. Verse 12, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
God can’t be seen. But His love can. It’s made visible and tangible in us and among us.
A shop window displays something of what’s inside. It advertises and entices us to go in.
The church, God’s family, is a shop window. Showcasing God’s character to the watching world. Advertising His love. Enticing people to come to Jesus.
And that’s how God’s love is made complete among us. No one can see God. But they can see us. And they can see our love for one another points people to Jesus.
John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
You can’t, verse 20, “[claim] to love God yet [hate] a brother or sister [That makes one] a liar.”
To claim to be Christian without showing any sign of Christ-like love is like claiming to be Japanese but not speaking a word of Japanese. Apple trees bear apples. Christians love.
John Stott, preacher and author, said; ‘no-one who has been to the cross and seen God’s immeasurable and unmerited love displayed there can go back to a life of selfishness.’
Once we’ve tasted God’s love. Once we know His love. We can’t keep it to ourselves. It overflows outward to others. Imperfectly yes, but it does.
It shows in our commitment to one another. Our commitment to meet together. On a Sunday. In Growth Groups. Being present so as to serve and encourage each other.
Love shows in our commitment to one another. Not dishonouring others, but lifting each other up. Not self-seeking or easily angered. Not holding grudges, but forgiving. Not delighting in gossip or slander, but rejoicing in truth. Protecting each other. Persevering with each other. Patiently bearing with one another. Practically supporting each other through hard times.
God is love, the source of love. Who shows us what love is. And completes His love in us and among us.
Which results in confidence.
Judgement Day is coming. Which ought to fill many with fear and dread.
But. Verse 17, “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment. [There’s] no fear in love. perfect love drives out fear “
Love sets us free from fear.
Verse 18, “[the] fear [that] has to do with punishment.”
This isn’t the healthy positive fear of God that is respect, reverence and awe. This here is a fear of damnation. Which is a fear that is now banished by love.
Romans 8:1, “there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”
That’s good news. We need not be unsettled or uncertain. Remember John’s punted 3 proofs or evidences of a genuine Christian. Believe in Jesus. Live in the light. Righteous. Live in love.
Proofs that give genuine Christians humble confidence. assurance.
We’re not saved by loving others. We love others ‘cos we are saved. Love is not the means. It’s the evidence. And it’s fruit that should re-assure us that we’re Christians, that we know God and enjoy salvation.
Verse 18, “[We’re] In this world [but] we are like Jesus.”
We belong to Him. We belong to glory. We need not fear judgement.
So, what can we take away today from John’s window onto love?
God’s family are to bear God’s likeness, the family likeness. And to love on another. God is love. The author/origin/source of love. Love comes from God.
God shows us what love is. Giving His only Son for us. Giving Himself to us.
God completes love in us. Indwelling us by His Spirit God works love in us and among us. We make the invisible God visible to the world through our love for one another.
And love results in assurance. No fear of judgement.
We live in a world that’s crazy about love. Though a world that’s starved for love, hungry for love. Feeling unloved.
Princess Diana thought the ‘biggest disease’ is feeling unloved. Though that’s actually only a symptom of the real “disease”.
The much bigger “disease” is sin. Our rebellion against God.
God loved the unloved, the un-lovable. He loved His enemies. Jesus died for us.
Which means God’s waiting to welcome anyone whose willing to turn from rebellion, and turn to Jesus. God has space at the family table. He would love you to come home.
How great must have been the pain of searing loss. When the Father turned His face away. As the wounds of Jesus the chosen one. Bring many sons and daughters to glory.
And once you’ve come home, for us who are part of God’s family, we’ll be bearing the family likeness. As we’ve been loved, let us love. Let us love one another.
With the assurance of salvation, with confidence, no fear of the coming judgement. Free from fear. Free to love one another.
And to those who remain under judgement. Let us be the show window where God’s love is on display. Advertising, enticing them towards Jesus. Showing a hungry world where they can find God’s Never stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.