Sunday, 30 October 2011

reflecting on John's letter of love

1 John 4:7-21 – God Is Love
storytelling - synod/presbytery day one

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. I spoke the latter phrase as a parentheses - the writer punctuating his argument with theological commentary.

Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. The inherited text runs on here, but it felt to me like a better place to pause than where the text had a paragraph break (after the next sentence). No one has ever seen God; (I didn't add it in, but it felt like there was an implied 'but' here, which I hope I implied with expression) if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we (I wondered if 'we' referred to John and the disciples, or followers of Christ in general) have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgement, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. As I repeated these lines, I could feel the reference back to 'God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us' - when we love each other. I having a lingering question about whether perfection means something different to a state of no blemishes ... I didn't quite answer this question, and therefore didn't know what I wanted to communicate with those words: I also, then, didn't quite nail effective expression for that phrase.

We love because he first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. Gesture and movement is more sparse in letters, as you take on the place of the letter writer - there are no characters whose places to take, no directions in which they move. So my hands were still for much of this telling. But in these phrases, I was gesturing the 'hate' with my left hand, palm away from me, and then I turned my palm up with the 'do not love', indicating a person to be loved, and as I spoke 'cannot love God', I turned my palm away again for the 'have not seen'. This made me wonder, is the 'whom they have not seen' referring to not seeing God because no one does see God, or that we haven't seen God in the brother or sister whom we have 'hated'? Since further above, John has said, 'if we love one another, God lives in us ... '

The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

1 comment:

Heather said...

I'm not sure what the whole "Love has been perfected" thing meant either.
What is perfection in love?