There was a popular children’s book by Margery Williams, called The Velveteen Rabbit. It tells the story of a little boy and his toys. Of course, in imaginary world the toys and the boy’s stuffed rabbit and rocking horse have a conversation:
“What is real? The velveteen rabbit asked the horse. “Does it mean having things buzz inside you and [having] a stick-out handle?” The horse replies, “Real isn’t how you are made, it’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become real.”
Another story describing love and relationships is in the popular movie, Cast Away. The main character is played by Tom Hanks, who is stranded on a deserted island. He is all alone but his innate longing for love and companionship he creates a human image on a volleyball, naming it Wilson. In many ways it is Wilson who helps him survive and ultimately venture off the island for rescue.
Life is meant for love. But we can only experience real life by encountering the love of the one whom made us. God’s love is brings a hope and happiness like no other:
Isaac Watts wrote
“Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”
Chris Tomlin wrote:
“Amazing love, how can it be? That You my King would die for me? Amazing love, I know it’s true. It’s my joy to honor You.
Real life only occurs when we experience the love of God. The awareness of God’s love transforms everything for a person’s life. The Apostle Paul prayed for people to know “the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3:18-19) and reminded others “that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:37-39).
– God’s love brings security (Psalm 36:7).
– God’s love helps you sing in hardship (Psalm 42:8)
– God’s love brings sin’s forgiveness (Psalm 51:1)
– God’s love brings salvation (Psalm 57:3)
– God’s love brings confidence of answered prayer (Psalm 69:13)
– God’s love is eternal and enduring forever (Psalm 136:26)
– God’s love brings safety and peace (Zephaniah 3:17)
– God’s love reminds us of His presence (Romans 5:5)
– God’s love brings an indescribable hope and future (1 Corinthians 2:9)
– God’s love makes us alive (Ephesians 2:4-5)
– God’s love knits us together in relationship with others (Col 2:2)
– God’s love brings assurance that we are one of His children (1John 2:5, 3:1)
The Bible describes love not just as a meager emotion but a meaningful expression of desire and even worship. Love of God goes beyond affection to adoration. Love of others goes beyond a casual care to having a compelling compassion for another’s being and welfare. God commands us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Deut 6:5; Mt 22:37; Lk 10:27). In addition, we are to love others (Mt 22:39; Lk 10:27, 37; Jn 13:34-35; 1Jn 4:7).
In today’s text of 1 John, the word is used 32X and 43X in the entire letter. This passage is one of a select few that has love as a scarlet thread holding it together. The basic idea is that knowing God and His love will result in love for others. In this passage we can discover 2 central truths concerning loving others.
EXAMINE 1John 4:7-21
Loving others reflects love for God (1John 4:7-8, 20-21).
John writes with a warm and affectionate tone, calling his readers “Beloved”. As a pastoral leader, he calls them together (“let us”) to love one another. The command is given 4X (4:7, 11, 12, 21) and it flows from the source that God is love. All of God’s commands flow from His character. As John writes of God’s character in the opening chapter, an evident sign of knowing and loving God is that you love others. John uses the same language here of being born of God as he does in his Gospel saying, “unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (3:3). Later, John says it is a contrast to say you have love for God but not others, for you see others but cannot see God. Love for God and hatred for others cannot co-exist.
ð Who are you having difficulty loving? [Don’t be so shocked, there’s always someone!]
Jesus showed us how to love the unlovely.
John 13:1-5 “when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end [fullest]. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments and taking a towel, tied it to his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel was wrapped around them.”
ð How do we seek to love one another as a church body?
- “It is clear to you that no relationship ever delivers what you dreamt it could. Your fantasy collides with reality, and reality bites!”
- Friendship Emphasis: not just a friendly church but a church of friends. People who genuinely
enjoy be in one another’s life.
- Small Group Emphasis: a church not just with small groups but a church of small groups.
- Connect Generations Emphasis: not just a church with conflicting generations but celebrating generations for the gospel
Cross Generations is often conflict in churches but why not for families?
- Young person thinks the older person dresses funny and repeats same stories but it’s ok bc they love.
- Older person thinks younger person dresses funny, doesn’t know good music but ok bc they love.
Loving others reflects God’s love (1John 4:9-19).
The purpose of loving others is not simply for social causes. As Christians we are to care about suffering in the world, but most of all we are to care about eternal suffering. John says that that God showed His love in that He sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (v.10). We love because He first loved us (v.19). So, to love our neighbor is not just a good deed to feel good about. It is a sign and expression of the gospel in God’s love for us.
John Piper said “One truth is that when the gospel takes root in our souls it impels us out toward the alleviation of all unjust suffering in this age. That’s what love does! The other truth is that when the gospel takes root in our souls it awakens us to the horrible reality of eternal suffering in hell, under the wrath of a just and omnipotent God. And it impels us to rescue the perishing, and to warn people to flee from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10). I plead with you. Don’t choose between those two truths. Embrace them both. It doesn’t mean we all spend our time in the same way. God forbid. But it means we let the Bible define reality and define love. Could [Christians] say we Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering? I hope we can say that. But if we feel resistant to saying “especially eternal suffering,” or if we feel resistant to saying “we care about all suffering in this age,” then either we have a defective view of hell or a defective heart.
ð How are we caring about suffering in this world?
- SPBC – each person & small group to reach out in love “as you go”
– Adopt school, nursing home, child/teen/family
- Partnership with SPAN & ODB helps to alleviate suburban & urban poverty
- Partnership with BCMD, NAMB, IMB
ð How can you personally engage?
- PRAY. ACT GLOCALLY (Global & Local).
- God is always at work… are you seeing, hearing, observing?
- Info in new Great Commission Center forthcoming
µ Have you experienced God’s love?
µ What if you were the only Christian someone met? Would they have an accurate reflection of God and understand His love?
Our love must not be only in “word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1Jn 3:18).
 Paul Tripp and Tim Lane. Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. p.4.