Verse: 1 John 4:19-21
19 We love because he first loved us.
20 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.
21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Have you ever stopped to think about how we know how to love? The Classic Rock band Foreigner did, when they famously sang “I wanna know what love is. I want you to show me.” While they were most likely looking for the answer in the wrong place, they still sort of had the right idea, in terms of asking for help. Because love is a learned behavior.

As children, most of us would have experienced the love of our parents and other family members, demonstrated in words and acts of affection, caring for our needs, comforting, encouraging, training, and yes, even disciplining us. That love would have been passed down through generations, and it traces back to its true origin, God himself. “We love because he first loved us.” At first glance, it might seem like a statement of reciprocity. But it doesn’t say “We love him because…”. It’s saying that his love for us (mankind) is what gives us the capacity to love in the first place. It’s the template for us to follow.

Unfortunately, some people weren’t blessed to grow up in a home where they experienced the type of love described above. And that can sometimes result in difficulty understanding the love of God, in particular the concept of him as a loving Father. Which is one of the reasons it is important for us to show God’s love to everyone. Because the gift of it comes with responsibility as well.

We are warned, in fact, that it is not even possible to truly love God without loving our brother (neighbor/the world). And not only warned, but commanded. Earlier in 1 John (2:3), we were reminded that believers keep God’s commandments. So, you can see that it is a closed cycle…to call yourself a Christian is to love God and keep his commandments. And one of those commandments is to love others, which you must do in order to love God, who has shown us how to love in the first place.

God, thank you for showing us how to love. And as we look forward to Easter, thank you especially for showing us the greatest act of love there ever was: sending your son to die on the cross for our sins, to rise again in defeating death, and making it possible for us to live in communion with you for eternity. Please help us to show that love to those around us, even especially when they might make it difficult for us to do so. Because you have taught us that love is not earned, it’s learned. Amen.

Author: Dave MacDonald