We love because God loved us first.
1 John 4:19, “We love because he loved us first.” (7/4/16)
In most pagan religions, the initiative is with people. The person feeds, clothes, protects, honors, and transports the “god.” In return, the “god” capriciously hands out favors to its worshippers. Our God is the exact opposite of this. Our God feeds, clothes, protects, and transports his people – us – before we even know who he is. God loves us first, and that teaches us how to love God and each other.
Deuteronomy 7:6-11 (7/6/16)
We are not God’s people because we are special. We are special because we are God’s people. We love God because God first loved us. As usual, our teachers – in this case Moses – remind us that we show our love through obedience.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 (7/6/16)
Paul tells the church members in Thessalonica that he doesn’t need to teach them to love each other. Why? Because God himself has taught them to love each other. Paul agrees with Moses and John that God loves us first, and our love for God and for each other is a response to that.
Romans 5:1-8 (7/7/16)
Think about it: God loved us while we were still sinners! Does that mean that God loves people who still are
sinners? Yes ... and we should, too! It’s also okay to tell them that God loves them and wants them back. It’s probably not too useful to harp on the fact that they are sinners. In the first place, either they already know it, or they don’t believe it. In the second place, they can easily see that we are still sinners, too. So just stick with, “God loves you, and so do I.”
Matthew 18:23-33 (7/8/16)
Allowing that you get different numbers from different sources, a talent seems to have been worth about 6000 denarii. That means that the king forgave a debt of about 60,000,000 denarii owed to him by his servant. (A denarius was roughly a day’s wages.) Then the servant refuses to forgive the debt of a mere 100 denarii owed to him by a fellow servant. The king asks him, “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?”
The point is that God has forgiven us much more than we can repay and much more than anyone owes us. Shouldn’t we forgive them in the same way? God loves us much more than we can love him. Shouldn’t we love others in the same way?
No one who hates his brothers and sisters can love God.
1 John 4:20-21, “If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar, because the one who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And this is the commandment we have from him: that the one who loves God must also love his brother.” (7/11/16)
So far John has been preaching. God loves me (and you, of course), and in fact God loved me (and you, of course) before we even loved him. God loves us much more than we can love him, but we should love him back as much as we can, and we also need to love one another. So far, so good.
Now John starts meddling: he states as an absolute fact that if I hate someone – anyone – then I don’t love God, and I’m lying if I say I do. Vs. 21 is stronger in the Greek (and some translations) than it is in the English Standard Version. The ESV says that if we love God, we “must” love our brother. Well, there’s a lot of things I “must” do that don’t get done; oh, well. The Greek, however, says, “the one who loves God also loves his brother.” No wiggle room. Loving every single one of God’s children – even the ones we’d prefer to hate – is a requirement, not an option. Don’t lie.
Luke 6:27-36 (7/12/16)
John learned his position on loving your neighbor directly from Jesus. Jesus says, “If you want to follow me, love not only your friends, but your enemies as well – everybody
loves their friends!” And what is his reason? God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil, and we need to show that same kind of mercy to our fellow creatures. We can’t love God if we don’t love our neighbors.
James 2:1-13 (7/13/16)
Do you want to be ignored or slighted or disparaged or hated or judged less worthy than someone else? Of course not! Well then, if we do any of these things to someone else, we are not “loving our neighbor as ourselves
.” Moreover, we are breaking God’s law, and as we have seen, if we love God, we keep his law. Therefore, if we don’t love our neighbors, we don’t love God.
However, brothers and sisters, I don’t want you to go around saying that some other person doesn’t love God just because you see him doing these things. We don’t know what he’s up against, and we don’t know how he feels about himself. What we do know for sure is that God loves him, and so should we. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James 4:11-12 (7/14/16)
I like James. His book is full of practical advice, such as this tidbit on one way to love my neighbor. In the words of Thumper Rabbit, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”
1 John 3:1, 7-17 (7/15/16)
It’s always been my impression that John spends much less time on how to behave as a Christian than any other New Testament writer. Instead, he spends his time talking about love: love and obedience to God, and love and care for our brothers and sisters. If we don’t love and care for our brothers and sister, how can God’s love be in us?
If you love God, you will love your brothers and sisters.
1 John 5:1-2, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent also loves the child of that parent. We know that we love the children of God when we love God and keep his commandments.” (7/18/16)
John says that if you love the parent, you will love the parent’s children. So if you love God, you love all of God’s children. You will know you are loving God’s children when you obey God’s commandments, chiefly, love God and love your neighbor. If you want details on how
to love your neighbor, you can refer to the Gospels, the Epistles, Acts, the Prophets, or the Law. They all say basically the same thing: treat other people the way you want to be treated. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”
Matthew 5:43-48 (7/19/16)
Have you heard of “peer pressure”? The idea is that if you are around a certain kind of people, probably because you admire them, you will try to become like them.
Jesus wants us to feel peer pressure from God. God is generous and kind to everyone, not because any of us deserve it, but because God is loving. Sure, God loves those who love him, but he also loves those who hate him. Jesus says, “You should try to be like God.”
Luke 10:25-37 (7/20/16)
Pastor John preached on the story of The Good Samaritan a couple of weeks ago. He made a point that I had never really thought about before: Jesus told this story about loving your neighbor (see vs. 27) in the context of inheriting eternal life (see vs. 25). Loving your neighbor is not optional, brothers and sisters. According to Jesus, who ought to know, the correct answer to “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” is “Love God; love your neighbor.” Your neighbor is anyone you run across, and you love them by taking care of them and providing for their needs.
Matthew 22:34-40 (7/21/16)
We learned in our study of The Chronological Gospel
that it wasn’t the goal of the gospel writers to give us a history of Jesus in absolutely chronological order. Their goal was to bring us the good news of salvation through Christ, and each one of them presents the material in a slightly different way. Sometimes it’s difficult to know whether you are reading about the same incident twice or about two similar incidents, once each.
All that being said, this little discussion between Jesus and a lawyer looks like
a different case (MWahaha) than the one we heard about yesterday. Jesus is consistent, however, in saying that the greatest commandment is to love God, and the one that is like it is to love your neighbor. Loving your brothers and sisters is just like loving God. Not loving your brothers and sisters is just like not loving God, as we saw earlier in this study in 1 John 4:20.
John 13:34-35 (7/22/16)
Jesus has just washed the feet of his disciples; the teacher has taken the part of the lowliest servant and treated his students as his superiors. Then he says, “I’m giving you a new commandment to love one another.” Always before, he has said, “The Law says, love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Now he says, “Love one another even more than that; love one another the way I have loved you.” If we don’t love one another, no one will even suspect that we are Christians.
Love God and obey his commandments, which are not burdensome.
1 John 5:3, “Because loving God means that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not a burden. ” (7/25/16)
It’s kind of sad when people talk about the Church as if it’s all “thou shalt nots.” For one thing, what part of “Thou shalt not commit murder” is a problem for you? Or “Thou shalt not steal”? Do you really want people swearing out false testimony against you? So maybe we can just agree that the rules forbidding certain actions are there for a purpose. For another thing, there are plenty of positive rules: Take care of your parents (an especially good rule if you are
a parent). Take off one day a week just to rest and be with God (an especially good rule if you are overworked and stressed out).
I admit that people
sometimes get carried away and add all sorts of nitpicky bans and requirements to what God says, but when John says that God’s
commandment are not burdensome, he’s speaking literally. And it’s not even necessary to remember them all. If you love God and love your neighbor, you won’t break any of the other commandments.
Deuteronomy 10:12-13; Leviticus 19:18; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:24; Micah 6:8 (7/26/16)
Five of my favorite Bible verses, strangely enough, are all on the same topic: Love God; love your neighbor.
1 John 3:18-24 (7/27/16)
We have to love in action as well as in deed. If we say, “I love God,” and then proceed to break his commandments, both God and people know we are untruthful. If we say, “I love my neighbor,” and then we cheat him and kick his dog, both God and people know we are untruthful.
John says that if our heart – that is, our conscience – condemns us, we know that God also thinks we’re doing something wrong, and if our conscience is clear, God also thinks we’re okay. Here, I’m less sure than John. I have known people who felt guilty about stuff that really wasn’t sinful, and I’ve read about people who committed horrible sins and were perfectly satisfied with themselves. Unfortunately, most of us do not understand the will of God as well as we should, and our feelings of guilt sometimes don’t line up with our real guilt. This is why it is so important to study the Bible. The Bible tells us clearly, over and over again, what God wants and what God doesn’t want, and by diligent study (and worship and prayer) we get our hearts lined up with God’s heart.
Meantime, if we keep God’s commandments and love one another, we won’t get too far off track.
1 Peter 1:14-25 (7/28/16)
Just as Paul says that we are saved by grace through faith for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10), Peter says that our souls are purified by obedience for brotherly love. God calls us to holiness, and two great aspects of holiness are obedience to God and love of his children.
Romans 13:7-10 (7/29/16)
We owe obedience to God, and honest generosity to our neighbors. Love God; love your neighbor.
More of God is Love
Love One Another
Dwelling in God's Love
Love God; Love your neighbor.
Copyright 2016 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB.
Most Recently Updated 8/20/2016
Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the
author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the
Bible-study participants. Thanks to the
Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers
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errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.
St. John’s United Methodist Church,
2626 Arizona NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87110
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