Abiding in a God of Love

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him2 there is no cause for stumbling. ~ 1 John 2:9-10 ~

Confession time: I struggle with the concept of LOVE - agape... Oh, I learned a long time ago how to agape my husband and children... I can even agape in the most trying situations. But I have also often felt like the lawyer asking Jesus, "but who is my neighbor". It is sad, we as Christians would have the nerve to ask that question - do we really need to qualify every receiver of God's good love and grace?

Digging into this week's verses, I braced for conviction. I readied to learn I had been doing this "love" thing all wrong. There are people in my life, particularly ones who say they are Christians, who are not acting like it and, in fact, are causing a great deal of misery to my family and myself. These are the ones I have the hardest time agape-ing. I try to be kind, yes. I attempt to give grace, for certain. Yet, at the end of the day, I struggle constantly with how to "turn the other cheek" and "carry the extra mile" when I am hurting and bogged down by the weight of it all. I don't feel or act in "hate" towards these people, yet, if I don't feel loving with them, therefore, wouldn't the opposite be hate? I valid observation, indeed. However, I was surprised to find what my deep-dig taught: apparently I have been on the right path... more than I thought.

My trepidation to love has less to do with God's command and more to do with a world gone mad. I have watched, over the years, as one church or Christian I knew after another has fallen victim to a softened and/or progressive gospel - which, in fact, is no gospel at all. It is the kind of "love" which says... God doesn't care about your sinful life and it is ok if you stay that way - who am I to judge or hold you accountable once you proclaim you are a Christian - you do you..... and so on. Unfortunately, the all-to-familiar response isn't to even-the-kilt, but rather, we often swing the pendulum in the entirely opposite direction, becoming cynical, hardened, graceless and even loveless.

Neither approach is correct.

Our passage in 1 John 2 this week highlights this very point. A surface reading sees love and hate as two static and basic opposing views. We then tend to transpose our idea and definition of each and walk forward with a "love everyone as they are" attitude lest we come across as "hating". What if I told you this message dug deeper than that though?

You see, in John's 1st century world there were false teachers walking around preaching to new believers about a works-based faith where God just forgives everyone and as long as you [fill in the blank] and look like them you will be "saved"... all the while, these very teachers were often hateful and despicable people (never-mind how completely oblivious they were to Jesus' Godship or His FREE gift of grace and salvation). John's argument here in chapter 2 is intended to highlight how a person's attitude will betray his heart - and how it isn't our momentary acts of frustration which may condemn us, but rather, our overall condition of heart. We can't SAY we will do and be good (or call others to the same) while acting spiteful, prejudice, harsh, jealous, misrepresenting others, selfish and so on. Yes, those are just some of the "qualifiers" of John's intention with the word "hate".

You will recognize them by their fruits. ~ Matthew 7:16a ~

Not only is this instance of love vs. hate in 1 John, specifically directed at believer-to-believer behavior, but it is also a direct fire at how our behavior has an impact on our witness for Christ and relationship with God. How we treat those who share our trust in Jesus Christ, matters... alot. Why? because our behavior is a reflection of God in us - and us in Him - the abiding nature this study aims to uncover. Jesus said so himself

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~John 13:35 ~

John was there to hear these words in real time and it is quite plausible he had them in mind when writing this epistle to the church.

Does this mean we don't have to show love to non-believers? No. Jesus's neighbor-loving command I mention at the beginning of this post tackles how we ought to consider those who don't share our beliefs. What is important to remember is the concentric circle of love:

Are we loving the fellow believer well?

Are we loving those who are non-believers yet kind people well?

Are we loving those who are "seekers" well?

Are we loving ALL well?

If we don't start with that middle-most point on the ring (loving other believers well), and build from there, all other attempts, quite frankly, are pointless. Remember, too, that love does not mean just being nice and putting up with bad behavior or sin all the time - in many places throughout Scripture we are commanded to "speak truth in love" which would suggest an element of grace, compassion, being slow to anger, and a heart to see others, especially fellow believers, inclined toward the Word of God and submitting to it. We are also called, in multiple places throughout Scripture, to "hate evil" and sin. To love someone well doesn't just mean hugs and well-wishes, it also means warning and reproval when danger is eminent, especially danger that can lead them (or others through their behavior) away from Christ.

Loving well is standing firm in truth through all of this... not hateful or resentful or suppressing what is right and good.

Love is light and truth - hate is darkness and lies.

Love is knowledge - hate is ignorance.

Love is the energy source which beckons others to be revived in the everlasting.... let us choose to love well, from the inside-out.

Our plan had been to study through 1 John and post 2-times a week throughout February here on the blog with pared graphics on social media. However, we hit some personal snags and posting has been scaled back. Abiding Love is a timeless study though, not just beneficial through 'the month of love', but applicable for all seasons of life. Be sure to click on the in-photo link above or visit our resources page to get your FREE copy!

Blessings as you abide,

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