Wednesday, June 7, 2017

What Love Demands (1 John 5:1-3)

John draws his discussion of the test of love to a close, as he so often does, with an “if-then” argument. It is a bit of a complex, four-part description of true faith.

The four qualities that are here inextricably a part of true faith are: right belief, right relationship to God, right relationship to others, and obedience to God’s commands. Here is how it works:

If you believe (i.e. trust in the reality that) Jesus is the Messiah, with all the implications that that implies, then you are a child of God.

Coming at it from another direction, if you love God, then you will also love the children of God.

Proof that you love the children of God is the fact that you obey God’s commands.

And, simply put, loving God is obeying His commands.

So, unlike what the picture above may seem to imply, this is not a case of four qualities that can be variously combined to create ever-better expressions of faith. Instead, they are all there or they are not. If you believe you will be. If you are you will love. If you love you will obey. Instead of seeing the picture as a Venn diagram, think of it as a single circle that has been temporarily stretched in four directions at once to show the qualities. As soon as we let go it will snap back together as a single thing—true faith.

When we claim to be a child of God, the Bible tells us that this will inevitably look like this. We will love God, we will love others the way God loves us, and that love will be expressed in a life lived as God wants us to live it. We can’t have an intellectual faith that does not impact the way we live. When we consider all of the laws and commands of God, they all ask us to be more loving. Jesus told us that the entire Biblical Law was summarized in two ideals: to love God and to love each other.

When we see God’s commands that way, we would have to agree that they are, indeed, not burdensome. They will not always be easy, nor simple or cheap. They are certainly something we must improve and grow in as we walk with God. But if we are truly children of God we have His promise that we will experience that growth.

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