Beloved, let us love one another for love is of God and anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:7,8 My parents live on a storybook piece of land right outside of Baton Rouge. There are seven ponds with fountains and an endless stream of wildlife. We love the geese, the swings and paddle boats and the peace and quiet this place affords. Even though my own home is nothing like this, when I come here, everything that this place has to offer becomes undeservedly mine.
That’s the only way I can understand the love of God. God’s love is too gracious, too driven by mercy, too vulnerable for my liking. God’s love embraces the hearts of people instead of just their personalities. God’s love is a marathon in a world of sprints.
Love originates with God. And, equally important, God not only houses this love, but God is this love. And because God is our home, this love is ours.
The words of 1 John seem unsettling—if you’re born of God, you love; if you don’t love, you’re not born of God. Where is grace? Where is room for mistakes? My status as God’s is hinged on whether or not I love?
Maybe this text wasn’t meant to be the test for whether or not I know God. Maybe it’s not a pass/fail issue. Maybe John’s words are meant to be less incriminating and more illuminating. The love of God has become our love both to receive and give as we find our home in God. Love, because it finds its source in God, can never be the result of external effort. We can’t manifest love outside of God because of love’s origin. Because love can’t be created, in order for us to participate in love, we must be conduits. We connect to the love of God and shoot it out to the world we encounter. We project God’s love not through feeling but through keeping one hand on God and the other on our neighbor. We can’t love if we leave home. Because God is our source, when we are home, we have open access to the love of God. But, we can only access this love, mirror this love, if we live out of the reality of our own identity.
1 John 4:7 and 8 offer words of hope and encouragement—accessing love is an issue of being who you were created to be. Loving others means receiving what God wants to give. This love is ours when we recognize our own belonging and remember our own home. Not only that, but we love as we live out of correct knowledge of God. Love becomes our practiced response as we see the world the way that God sees it. When we’re living out of knowledge of God, we’re actively living out of our home, the place where God gathers, holds, strengthens, and rebuilds the hurting of this world. When we choose hatred, we are choosing to ignore the reality of God in this world. When we judge, hurt, misrepresent another, we deny the Light that has come into the world.
God knows that love comes from being planted at home. Our job is to remain with the source of love. In this place, we can offer grace to the irritating and kindness to the arrogant. We can offer patience to those who seek to hurt or undermine us. We belong to Love. We are loved people. We are freed to love with one foot planted in the yard of our annoying neighbor and one foot planted in our Home.