Jesus said: ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another’ (John 13:34, 35).

John seems to have had these words in mind as he wrote his first letter. Having already stated the critical significance of love in 2:7 – 11 and 3:10 – 24, he now returns to this theme in chapter 4:7 - 21. He has stressed before, and now he again stresses, that a person who claims to walk in the light, a person who claims to know Jesus Christ, will also be a person whose life is characterised by love.

We have noted before that John’s commands and statements about how we should live are written in the present tense. That is also true here where he talks about loving others – he writes about loving in the present tense: He is talking about living a life that is characterised by love, about a love that is habitual, a love that is the dominant characteristic of our life.

So we find:

Verse 7: let us love one another – Present Tense.
Verse 7: everyone who loves – Present Tense.
Verse 8: whoever does not love – Present Tense.
Verse 11: we ought also to love one another – Present Tense.
Verse 12: if we love one another – Present Tense.
Verse 16: whoever lives in love – Present Tense.
Verse 19: we love because he ... – Present Tense.
Verse 20: if anyone does not love his brother... Present Tense.
Verse 21: must also love his brother ... Present Tense.

There are times when it is difficult to love, and people whom it is difficult to love. There are moments when, if we honestly evaluate specific, individual words, attitudes or actions, we do the opposite of love. As we have seen, John outlaws any claim to sinlessness. However, regardless of these individual lapses, the overall, continuing impression of our lives, observed by others, will be that we, the followers of Jesus Christ, love one another.

Why is love so important? And what is this ‘love’ that is so important?

Love is important because love comes from God – 4:7.

Love is important because it distinguishes a person who knows God from a person who does not know God. If we really do know God, as we as Christians claim, then we will love. If we don’t love, then our claim to know God is false – 4:7,8.

This is because God, whom we claim to know, is love – 4:8.

God clearly displayed that he is love, and what ‘love’ is, by sending his Son into the world as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, so that we might live through him – 4:9, 10.

This love of God for us pre-dated our love for him. His love came first, not ours – 4:10.

If we have come to know God by knowing Jesus Christ his Son, if we have seen God, by seeing Jesus Christ his Son, then:

We know who God is.
We know that God is love.
And we therefore know what love is.

Therefore, John tells us –

‘Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another’ – 4:11.

John then tells us that ‘no one has ever seen God’ – 4:12. But when Christians love each other, with real love like the love of God, the world which does not know God and has never seen God, will see the love of God, and will know that there is something out of the ordinary at work. They will see the amazing love of God in action.

‘... if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us’ – 4:12.

‘Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another’ – John 13:34, 35.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2022