In 1John 4:7 & 8 John writes: ‘Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

John wrote his first letter to Christian believers. He has told them that as people who know Jesus Christ they also know God the Father. He has been encouraging them to so live that their lives are a clear expression of the truth that they know and that they claim to believe. He has spoken previously about the importance of love and here in chapter 4 he again returns to that theme.

In verse 8, and again in verse 16, John says ‘God is love’. This truth that God is love is the basis of John’s statements:

Because God is love, God is also the source of love – verse 7.
Because God is love, everyone who is ‘born of God’ loves – verse 7.
Because God is love, everyone who ‘knows God’ loves – verse 7.
Because God is love, everyone who does not love does not ‘know God’ – verse 8.

In verse 12 John adds: ‘if we love one another, God lives in us ...’

John’s point is that because God’s nature is love, those who are ‘born of God’, those who ‘know God’, those in whom ‘God lives’, will love. Although it is a command that we have to choose to obey, it is also a flow-on from knowing God, from being born of God, from God living in us and us living in God.

Both the Old and New Testaments teach us that the nature of a person’s ‘god’ impacts that person’s values and lifestyle. For example:

Leviticus 11:44 – ‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.’

2Kings 17:15 – ‘They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless.’

Matthew 5:44, 45, 48 – ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous ... Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

Ephesians 4:32’ 5:1 – ‘forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us ...’

This concept of loving because our God, the God we acknowledge and worship, is love, is anchored in two foundational concepts, one from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament – our creation in the image of God, and Jesus’ command ‘Follow me.’

Creation in the image of God. Regardless of what we believe happened to the ‘image of God’ in Genesis 3 when we turned our backs on God, Jesus came to undo and reverse Genesis 3. The salvation we have in Jesus Christ is multi-faceted, including the restoration of our relationship with God, the restoration of our knowledge of God, and the on-going restoration of the image of God.

John tells us ‘God is love’. The image of God factor, reactivated and re-enabled by our restored relationship with God, means that the love of God will increasingly be reflected in our lives. The more we know God and walk with God the more our lives will be characterised by love. The Holy Spirit within us says to us ‘choose love, love one another’, in contrast to our old nature which wants to prioritize self.

In 1John 4:12 John says ‘no one has ever seen God’. But, he says, if we love another, God’s love will be seen because God lives in us. No one has seen God, but we, who know him, will be imaging, reflecting, his love.

Jesus’ command ‘Follow me.’ The second foundational truth on which John’s ‘because God is love’ is anchored is Jesus’ call in the gospels - ‘follow me’. This was his initial command when he called his disciples (Mark 1:17; 2:14). It was part of his promise ‘Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness’ (John 8:12). It was in many ways a very demanding command: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’ (Mark 8:34). Jesus made it quite clear that following him meant holding on to him, and to his values and priorities, above all other values and priorities. When Jesus said ‘follow me’, his command was not to join him as a buddy, but rather to come under his authority and under the authority of the truth he taught and lived. That truth and that example are all encompassed in this one word – ‘love’.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2022