“Beloved, let us love one another,” writes the Apostle John (1 John 4:7). Jesus and John both said that to love one another is a command. What were they thinking when they commanded us to love?
Did they mean that we should love people from the resource of love that is naturally in us? Certainly not. They were too realistic about human nature for that. They knew, as the Bible testifies, that the heart is not naturally full of love. History has proven what they knew. Humans have been hurting one another since Cain killed Abel.
Did they command us to love because they knew we would never feel like loving, so we should just do it as a duty? There are times when we make decisions to act in love that may be void of loving feelings. But the Bible says too much about compassion, joy, and delight to think that Jesus or John would promote love as a duty-bound activity.
To understand how love can be a command and still come from a joyful heart, we look closer at one little word that makes a big difference.
The command says, “Beloved, let us love one another.” Being the beloved of God is the key to loving others with God’s love.
The person who knows God’s love can, and does, love others. The command to love is not burdensome to the people who believe they are loved by God. Experiencing God’s love by grace through faith in Jesus is heart-transforming. From this heart grows the fruit of love.
The beloved are the children of God. They know that God, who is their Father, is love. They have come to see and to believe that the Father sent his Son into the world to die for their sins and provide for their forgiveness. The beloved children of God trust in the beloved Son of God to save them. They receive the Holy Spirit who pours God’s love into their hearts. Those who are loved by God have the evidence of the cross of Christ and the witness of the Word of God that nothing will separate them from his love.
The beloved of God are not left asking, “Who’s going to love me?” They are not orphans. They know they have been, are now, and will always be loved.
J.I. Packer wrote in Knowing God, “Love awakens love in return.” People loved by God love people with the love of God. “We love because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).
That one word, “beloved,” holds the key to why and how we love one another.
Do you know God’s love? Have you looked to Jesus on the cross to see his love? Are you trusting him? Are you listening to the voice of God’s Spirit speaking with God’s Word telling you that he loves you? Are you loving others as one who is loved by God?
This weekend, focus your thinking and praying on the word “beloved.” This Sunday, join us as we hear the command to love one another.