1 John 4:10-12 – This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (NIV)
As a Sunday School teacher, it never ceases to amaze me how God continually reveals Himself and His will in new ways through "old" scriptures. So many times in studying a lesson, I have been brought back to verses that I have read dozens and sometimes hundreds of times. Yet each time there is the potential that God will open up a little more of Himself to me through His word. That was the case as I studied, for the second time, our lesson focused on love. I was supposed to have taught this lesson a week earlier, but, due to a winter storm, our class did not meet.
My first thought was that I would not need to study, because I had already prepared my lesson. But I decided to review each day the different sections of the text. That was when I truly realized what it was that God was trying to tell me in the verses above. I had studied this lesson with the intent of teaching others, but this lesson was truly intended to teach me.
I am one of these Christians who constantly feels as if I am totally failing God, that there is something more that He would have me do. While I realize that all of us fail God on a daily basis, and all of us could do more for God, for some reason I feel as if I am held to this "higher" standard. The thing is, I have never really known or been able to figure out what exactly it was that I was missing or needing to do. But as I re-studied this lesson, and even as I typed this devotion, I came to realize the area in which God wishes for me to improve: loving others!
So many times as Christians we get caught up in searching for ways to serve God (teaching, witnessing, singing, giving, etc.) that we lose sight of one of His highest callings for all of us. Time and time again in His word God emphasizes His desire for us to love one another. Jesus said that it was the second greatest of all God's commands; the first being to love God. But I, and probably many others like myself, have never really given enough thought and consideration to that command. Sure, I try to be good to other people; I pray for those less fortunate; I give to those less fortunate. I do all of the "Christian" things to "show love" to others.
But do I truly love anyone in the way that God loves me? Would I be willing to lay down my life for those less fortunate people? Would I even be willing to lay down my life for my Christian friends? Sadly, the true answer to that question is the cause or source of the empty spot I have in my service and relationship with God. I have put all of my efforts into doing more and more for Him, not realizing that what He really wants is for me to do more and more for others. In today's scripture, John tells us that only through loving others is God's love made complete or perfected in our lives. The word he uses for love — "agape" — is the same word he used earlier in describing God's love for us. It is a self-sacrificing love.
I think all Christians desire that God perfect His love in our lives. But in order for that to happen, we are all going to have to make sacrifices. We must be willing to sacrifice our time, and even our lives, for the sake of others, showing others the love God has shown for us. Then, and only then, will God be able to complete and perfect His love and will in our lives.
As we have quiet time this week, let us take a few moments and truly reflect upon 1 Corinthians 13, "the book of love". Let us take note of all the areas in which our love may not be up to God's standards, and pray that God will help us to improve, so that His love might be made perfect in us.
Prayer: Loving God, convince us of Your love, and lead us to love others with the same love with which You love us. In Jesus' name. Amen.