God, source of all light, by your Word you give light to the soul. Pour out on us the spirit of wisdom and understanding that our hearts and minds may be opened. Amen.
God Is Love
7-10 My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.
11-12 My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!
13-16 This is how we know we’re living steadily and deeply in him, and he in us: He’s given us life from his life, from his very own Spirit. Also, we’ve seen for ourselves and continue to state openly that the Father sent his Son as Savior of the world. Everyone who confesses that Jesus is God’s Son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God. We know it so well, we’ve embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God.
To Love, to Be Loved
17-18 God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.
19 We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.
20-21 If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.
Our world needs to see God. Our world needs to see the light of God when the world is dark.
God is love. God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.
Perhaps the video is on to something. Perhaps the love that mothers show reflects the light of God into a world of darkness. Perhaps mothers help us to see a portrait of God – they help us to see the image of God – the very face of God. Genesis tells us that we are created in the image of God. In Latin it is imago dei. We are God’s image in this world. I firmly believe that there are people in our lives who are that imago dei for each of us – they become a way that we can see God’s light — God’s love — God’s image in our lives. It may be your mother or it may have been your mother. Or it may be someone else. Moms aren’t always able to be the love of God for us. And if this day is difficult for you because of some disappointment that you have experienced with your mother, I can confidently say that God has or will send someone else into your life to show you that love of God. There are image bearers in our lives. God loves us that much – God loves us that much that God would send his Son Jesus to bear his image, and that he would also send people along our path to shine the light of God all over us.
I praise God today. Because I have the best mom ever. I’m really not sure exactly what kind of love my mom poured out into me. I couldn’t really give you any specific acts or reasons that my mom is so awesome. And maybe enough time has passed that any flaws she might have had, I have forgotten. But what I remember is that she loved me so much, that today I just pretty much think I’m the greatest in the world. She encouraged and taught me in such a loving way, that I pretty much think there is nothing I can’t do (except maybe math and anything requiring athletic ability.) My mom even thinks I can sing well!! And I think it is this love that has allowed me to bravely and confidently and fearlessly go into the world.
God’s love is perfection.
And maybe the love that moms pour out is the image of this perfect love of God. Moms are pretty amazing people, aren’t they? Think about all the ways that moms love. I have to think that when mothers are at their best, it has to be the closest that we can come to the image of God — the imago dei– in human form. It’s the unconditional nature of this love that reflects God’s image.
Think about it.
Our moms think we are great even when we aren’t.
Our moms think we were beautiful, even when we were the ugliest baby ever. Or even when we don’t have our make up on.
Our moms think we are special, even when we are pretty average.
Our moms took care of us when we were throwing up.
Our moms washed our stinky clothes.
Our moms loved us through our teenage years.
Our moms loved us even when we rejected them.
Our moms loved us even when we really messed up our lives, forgiving us over and over.
Our moms waited expectantly for the day that we would return home from our sinful lives, and then they celebrated just like when the prodigal returned to his family when he came to his senses.
In the ideal world, a mother’s love is unconditional – we don’t have to act a certain way or look a certain way around our moms. They don’t care if we are smart or athletic or musical. They just love us. And they think we are the greatest in the world. They offer love and forgiveness through our worst moments.
Before becoming a mother, author Kate Samperi had a hundred theories on how to bring up children. But she wrote that “now I have seven children and only one theory: love them, especially when they least deserve to be loved.”
That is the image of God. That is the imago dei. That is the portrait of God! That is God’s grace coming alive. Overwhelming love especially when we least deserve to be loved. That is perfection!
God’s love is perfect. But did you know that God wants you to be perfect, too? Today’s text says:
[If] God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!
God’s love becomes complete in us – perfect love.
I think that we would all agree that God is perfect and that God’s love is perfect, that Jesus and his love is perfect. But how can we become perfect? The Greek word for perfect can also be translated “mature or complete.” And that’s wording today’s text uses, saying: “his love becomes complete in us.” When we receive God’s perfect love, we are changed. There is something different about us. And God wants us to grow up — and not remain spiritual babies – God wants us to become mature and complete – God wants us to become his image bearers in the world.
This process of becoming perfect in Christ Jesus, the process of becoming complete – this process of becoming spiritually mature is a lifelong process. We can always love God more and love people more. No matter where we are in our journeys, we can always grow closer to Christ – we can always become closer to reflecting the image of God in our world.
We are so loved. God loves you! This scripture today tells us that we are to love and to be loved. So your challenge this week is to love and to be loved. Experience God’s love (that’s the “to be loved” part) – Is it time for you to just accept that God loves you? For some of us, it is hard to believe that God would love a sinner like us. But remember, like that mom said about loving her kids — God loves even us– especially when we least deserve it. And if you think a mother’s love is amazing, we can’t even comprehend the width and length, the height and depth of God’s love for us.
Honestly, you might as well accept God’s love once and for all – because God is stubborn. God is more stubborn than your mom. God is going to keep pursuing you until the day that you die. So just face it – just know it in your knower that God loves you – forever until forever from now. So be loved!
And once you’ve got that initial acceptance down, continue to seek God out in your everyday life. Continue to be still and listen for God. Continue to talk to God and read God’s word. As you do these things you will become mature and complete in God’s perfect love. And then you will be able to love others.
You’re going to need that perfect love of God if you want to live out today’s scripture. Because the second lesson of the scripture is to use that love of God to love. Love each other, not just with your words, but in truth and in action. If God loves us with this perfect love, we must love our brothers and our sisters – our friends and our enemies – our family and strangers.
Without God—our world is dark.
But in God there is no darkness at all. God calls us to receive the light of his amazing love. God sends moms and dads and teachers and friends to bear the image of God in our lives – to show the face of God here on earth. But God also gives us minds to think and freewill to choose to receive this love. You see, God leaves it up to us to choose to be loved – by God and by the image bearers in our lives. And once we make the choice to walk as a child of the light, we must love one another. Loving others is our response to God’s love. Because you see, it’s not all about us. It’s God’s plan. Once we become filled entirely with the fullness of God, it pours out of us onto others. And we become the image bearers in a dark world. We become the light in the dark. Do you see how that works? We are the imago dei – we become the very portrait of God that others desperately need today!
That is perfection!
Let us pray. God may each of us love and be loved. And God, I pray Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians over your children today.
I ask that God will strengthen you in your inner selves from the riches of his glory through the Spirit. I ask that Christ will live in your hearts through faith. As a result of having strong roots in love, I ask that you’ll have the power to grasp love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers. I ask that you’ll know the love of Christ beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God.
Church, when you are filled entirely with the fullness of God, your light will shine as the image of God in a dark world.