7Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.10In 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.11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.14And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world.15God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God.16So 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.17Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world.18There 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.19We love* because he first loved us.20Those 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.21The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
Summary—John addresses his readers as “beloved,” knowing that love begets love, and that love is precisely what he’s calling them to (v.7). But he isn’t calling them to love like you call your dog to his leash: your dog may or may not come to his leash, but his doginess is never in question; whereas, John is calling them to love like you call a magnet to metal: if it doesn’t come, it isn’t a magnet. You see, whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (v.8)—just as light comes from fire because fire is light, so love comes from God because God is love: everything He does is overflow of Himself for the joy of others, and that overflow will flow through anybody connected to Him. And this love of God was revealed by His sending His Son (v.9); indeed, love does not consist in our loving God, but in His loving us in this way (v.10). Since God loves us in this way, we ought to love each other (v.11)—again, not like a dog ought to come to his leash, but like a hose connected to flowing water ought to channel water: if it doesn’t channel water, it isn’t connected to flowing water. Although God in Himself cannot be seen, He can be seen to live in us by our loving each other (v.12); in fact, our loving each other is the “perfection” (fulfilled purpose) of God’s love (v.12). We know that we abide in Him by His Spirit (v.13) causing us both to confess that Jesus is the Son of God (v.14-15) and to love (v.16). And, when we see God’s love fleshed out in our relationships, we know that He is making us like His Son, and that we therefore will have good standing with Him on Judgment Day (v.17). So, loving each other is how we know that we need not fear that Day (v.18); and, of course, this will be true of us only because He first loved us (v.19). Those who do not love the brethren definitely should fear Judgment Day, because they don’t love God—if you can’t love a person you can see, you certainly can’t love a Person you can’t see (v.20)! To sum up: if you love God, you’ll love His children (v.21).
Insight—Perfect love (meaning, actualized love—loves that finds fulfillment in action) casts out fear of God’s Judgment. If you find in yourself a supernatural love for other Christians, of some kind that you don’t have for just anybody—a love that cannot be accounted for in any other way; a “family love” despite unloveliness—and, if it leads you to joyfully, tangibly, sacrificially bless them, then rest assured that you are indwelt by the Spirit and being re-made in Christ’s likeness, and that you will meet God’s smile on Judgment Day. No fear. But, if you do not find any hint of this in yourself—not so much as a tendency; not so much as a faltering trajectory—but instead a cold and hard indifference toward Christians, then beware: whoever does not love, does not know God, for those who do not love a brother or sister* whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.
Child Catechism—What does your love for other Christians tell you? That God is pouring His love through me.
Discussion—Would you say that, according to John, fear of Judgment Day always indicates a failure to love others well?
Prayer—Father, You are Love, and those born of You, love. You cannot act but it is the overflow of Your awesome beauty for the joy of those who find their joy in You; and, if we will not be the channels of Your love, we will not be Yours at all. Grant that Your love might be perfected in us in this way: that we would love Your children, because they are Your children. Grant accordingly that our fear of Judgment Day might be cast out, as we rejoice in the evidence that we are in You and You in us: love flowing through us from Jesus Christ through whom we pray. Amen.
Contributed by Scott Cline