Weekly Bible Devotional
“Finding God in the Waves: The God We Can Know”
September 4, 2022
Scripture: 1 John 4:7-14
7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 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. 10 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. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.
Notes on the Text:
This epistle (letter) was addressed to a general audience, unlike those written by Paul. This is more of a sermon than a letter. Letters of the period, including the letters of the New Testament (with the partial exception of the Letter to the Hebrews), have a clearly defined form: The name of the sender and the name of the recipient are given at the outset, followed by a stock formula of greeting. Normally this is followed by a short thanksgiving, which (certainly in the case of the Pauline letters) also introduces the principal subjects of the letter or the reason for writing. The letter also ends with a polite greeting. None of these features is present in 1 John. It shares a style, phrases and expressions with the Gospel according to John, so it is very likely that both were written by the same person. It appears to have been circulated to various churches. The author seeks to combat certain teachings, specifically that the spirit is entirely good while matter is entirely evil.
And so we see that the focus of 1 John 4 was on instilling in the followers of Jesus that love was the main focus of the Christian life. In the midst of their disagreements, they seemed to have forgotten that. The time of the writing of the letter is around or after the year 100 CE. The Christian movement was entering its second century and already had had a major division. It was first started as a branch of Judaism but now was kicked out of the synagogue and the separation was complete. The author of our text for this week was proposing something completely different from all of the theological and philosophical debates and divisions of his time. This letter which is written more like a sermon for a general audience was calling the followers of Christ to focus on the centrality of love for the Christian faith. Love was the answer which the author of First John was proposing for the early Christians. This was not some lame easy answer that he was proposing. It is not a call to just get along with others. He was challenging them to get off their high theological horses to truly follow Jesus with sacrificial acts of love.
The true measure of our faith is not theological correctness but true love for Christ and for the world which Christ loved and redeemed. The three indicators which the author of this letter gives to us to measure our faith are: 1. Being awakened to God’s love in our lives. 2. Being committed to loving others, both believers and nonbelievers (meaning those we agree with and those we don’t agree with). 3. Sharing our wealth with the poor.
Oftentimes we project onto God images of anger, judgment, and fear. This leads us to believe that God is angry at us and is always ready to punish us for any disobedience. The image of the angry and distant God clings to our brains and makes us stuck in more stress and anger. This image/experience of God activates our amygdala which leads us to be less forgiving, less flexible, and less trusting. For centuries, Christians have been taught or have taught others that God would punish our infractions, even though we are told that God loves us unconditionally. As a result, the Christian faith has not always lived up to its ideals of love and compassion
When we experience God as an angry and judgmental deity, we tend to forget what Jesus came to teach us. This is what I believe the author of 1 John 4 was trying to remind the followers of Jesus of as they seemed to have forgotten that unconditional love was the focus of the Christian life.
Love is the central theme of the Christian life and yet love is one of the most difficult things to practice in daily life, especially when people are being unlovable or when our egos, ideologies, insecurities, and fears are involved. We don’t have to look very hard to see Christians being unloving and judgmental in the name of their faith. Think of the hate that some Christians spew out against those they consider to be “unrepentant sinners.” Another statement that is often thrown around is “hate the sin and love the sinners.” I know that the intention behind it is to be loving, but the effect it has on people is often that of fear, judgment, and separation. When Christians forget about the centrality of love, we end up separating ourselves from the neighbors we are called to love unconditionally. In the name of morality, we end up building walls of separation and hate instead of breaking down barriers.
To the author of First John faith is not a matter of belief, it is rather a matter of love; being in right relationship with Christ, with others, and with ourselves. The Christian faith at the heart of it is a matter of the heart and of how we live every day.
Prayer by Richard Rohr:
God, lover of life, lover of these lives,
God, lover of our souls, lover of our bodies, lover of all that exists . . .
In fact, it is your love that keeps it all alive . . .
May we live in this love.
May we never doubt this love.
May we know that we are love,
That we were created for love,
That we are a reflection of you,
That you love yourself in us and therefore we are perfectly lovable.
May we never doubt this deep and abiding and perfect goodness.
We are because you are. Amen.