Abiding in Faith and Love
All that Jesus is and does testifies to and manifests God's love. Those who
confess Jesus as Son of God and Savior know and rely on the love God has for us.
Rely on suggests the trustworthy nature of that in which we put our trust.
Christians can count on the devotion of God's love, because they have
experienced it in God's faithfulness to them. They can rely on God. The cynical
songwriter of "Lemon Tree" who counseled, "Don't put your faith in love" really
meant "don't put your faith in people." But John writes that we can trust God's
love, because we can trust God. The evidence of God's steadfast love is the
sending of the Son. It is impossible to confess the Son without at the same time
understanding him to be the incomparable manifestation of God's love.
verse 16 the Elder moves easily into a reassertion of his earlier thesis that
God is love, a statement that is difficult to improve upon, explain or
paraphrase. We can say that God's nature is love, that God's actions are loving,
that God repeatedly demonstrates love for us and others, that God loved even a
hostile world and that God sent Jesus to make all of this known to us. That
God's love provides the standard for love means that authentic love is steadfast
and constant, that it is directed toward others with life-giving healing, that
it seeks out its enemies for good and that it is known pre-eminently in the
cross. Human love de rives its character and shape from the standard of divine
As noted above, we must not turn the affirmation God is love around to
read "love is God." The second part of verse 16 lends itself to such a
misreading when it says whoever lives in love lives in God. But the Elder can
write whoever lives in love lives in God only because he has first written God
is love. In other words, he assumes that those who love live in God--but only
because he assumes that those who live in God necessarily love. Love comes from
God who is love; hence, those who live in love show that they live in God. Love
for others and living in relation ship with God are inseparable. The dissidents
who claim to live in God, although they do not love the children of God, live
neither in love nor in God. God Encourages Us in Love.
The relationship of divine and human love is further developed here. God
makes our love complete and so gives us confidence. Love that is complete is
love that reaches its goal by being bestowed upon our brother or sister. To put
it another way, the shape of perfect love is triangular: love comes as a gift
from God that enables us to love each other and so return to God the gift that
is given to us. In the words of C. H. Dodd, "The energy of love discharges
itself along lines which form a triangle, whose points are God, self, and
neighbor." Where any one leg of the triangle is missing, love remains incomplete
But where the triangle is whole, love is complete. As a result,
we have confidence on the day of judgment because our love signals to us that we
already enjoy fellowship with God. And those who share fellowship with God in
the present need not fear that they shall be judged unfavorably in the future.
God will not take away from them the salvation and love that has already been
granted to them in the Son. They need have no fear of punishment.
further underscores the point when he writes, in this world we are like him.
Here is an analogy between the children of God and the Son of God at the point
of fellowship with God. As the Son has free access to and confidence with God,
so too does the believer have a boldness with God. And, since boldness and fear
are opposites of each other, the author writes that in love, the hallmark of our
relationship to God and of Jesus' relationship to God, there is only confidence:
not fear. As Barclay puts it, "When love comes, fear goes."
And so John
writes, There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. As the
context shows, fear means fear of punishment by God when one comes to the
judgment. Those who live in God do not need to fear God's judgment. But the
statement ought not to be turned around to mean that any anxieties or fears are
evidence that we are imperfect in love. Confidence and fear are opposites, and
the Elder believes that because Christians have confidence before God they need
not be frightened of God's judgment. Fear of being condemned has been driven out
from them by the perfect love of God.
Nonetheless, many Christians are
tortured by feelings of worthlessness, self-doubt and inadequacy, that they are
not good enough for God, that somehow by trying harder they really can make God
love them more. We cannot badger others into accepting God's love. Although we
can preach and teach about it, and try to model it in our life and community,
each of us must ultimately open up with vulnerability and humility to
acknowledge our unworthiness and yet also to accept our own worth, which is
sometimes the more difficult. In confessing our sin before God, we accept our
unworthiness, not worthlessness! In that moment of vulnerability we discover
that God is "faithful and just" and, through Jesus Christ, graciously covers the
sinner with love and forgiveness. We know that although we have been found out,
we have also been found. We come to accept that God sent the Son into the world
because he deemed us worthy to be loved and forgiven, we who are created in the
divine image and destined to become fully re stored to it when "we shall be like
him, for we shall see him as he is."
To know that we are forgiven for our sin,
loved in our weakness, saved by his mercy, destined for fellowship with God, all
because we are supremely valued by God: that is to know the perfect love that
drives fear away. It is not because of what we have done that we can have such
confidence before God, but because of what God has done for us.
God Is the Source of Love