“Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 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. 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. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” (1 John 4:8-13)
The writer John the Apostle has something fundamental and crucial to say about God, something about God that we really need to know: God is love. “Love, “ said the US feminist social activist bell hooks, “is a verb.” John would agree with bell hooks. God, whom John is writing about in this chapter, is a lover, three persons in relationship, who love one another actively, perfectly.
“God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us.” That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? In a very selfish way, that sounds like something I really want: the amazing God alive in me with his perfect love. But John does not want us thinking selfishly. He wants us to know something about the coming of the Spirit of God: when God is in, among and with us by his abiding presence, it will be evident because of love. This is because God is love, God has loved us first, and we love because God loved us first.
John was addressing a collective, a church. When a stranger visits your church, the thing you most want for that stranger is that they experience the presence of God. This can happen in a variety of ways: through worship, or hearing the Word of God read, or even in silence. John is telling us here, that if you want someone to know that God is in your church, then there is something you can and must do. Do as God does: love one another. Then when others see you loving, they, will see God.
John makes his point pretty clear: God in his perfect love abides in us if we love one another. He is not saying that if and when we become really loving people, then God will decide we are good enough to come to. He is actually saying something profoundly opposite. John is saying, “Do you want to see God? Then take notice when you put love into practice, and you will see me abiding in you.”
For more on this theme, please make a point of listening to Shiao Chong’s sermon this coming Sunday, May 28, on “What the Spirit Does”.
Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, and abide in us, enable us to love one another even as you have loved us.