See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1Jn 3:1a)
In my last post I wrote about how Christ is the visible manifestation of God's love (agape). But it is not just in Jesus that the visible love of God is displayed...
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God...
The primary way that God's agape love is made visible to the world today is not through Christ, whom they cannot see, but through us! The church, the community of the children of God, is designed to be a display of what the Father's love looks like to the world.
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1Jn 4:12)
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:35)
John's message, time and time again in his first epistle is that our love - the love between brothers and sisters in the faith - is a visible expression of the Father's own love. If we love each other we display the love of the Father. If we do not love each other then it is a telling evidence of an absence of the Father's love - not toward us, for that remains steadfast even while we were still in sin - an absence of that love reflected in our own hearts.
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1Jn 4:20)
Our display of agape love to each other, I believe, is the primary way we make God manifest to the world. Even the gifts of the Spirit, which are described as manifestations of the Spirit - and thus by design function to make God known, are meaningless if they do not operate in the context of love. You cannot have chapters 12 and 14 of 1 Corinthians without chapter 13!
We are happy to boast in the Father's unconditional love towards us, but how is that reflected in our attitude towards a brother or sister who does not measure up to our own "conditions"? We thank God for the journey he has taken us on out of error and into truth; yet how do we react to those who speak what we consider to be in error? Do we instruct them gently or rebuke them harshly and publicly? It's all too easy, like Peter, to be confessing Christ one minute, and be a mouthpiece for the Accuser the next. As James says - my brothers, this should not be!
If the light does not shine on its own stand how can it illuminate the world?
How are we to love each other? In the same way the God loves us. Not just conceptually or emotionally, but tangibly and visibly, with a love that does something that can be seen.
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1Jn 3:18)