The Community of the Beloved: 1 John 4:7

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
12 No one has beheld God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
(1 John 4:7-13, NASB).

Let us love one another. We have this construction: Beloved (agapetos), love (agapao) one another. It means, “agaped ones”, “agape” each other. I think the passive idea of “letting” us love one another is appropriate, though not directly in the Greek text. Being that we are the community of the ones whose identity is that of being persistently loved, we respond in kind in our community with each other. We are the “agaped ones” together, in community, and we let ourselves be that which we truly are with one another.

It only makes sense that as beloved people, we love one another. In an elite music school such as the Julliard School of Music, in the company of virtuoso musicians, the members play music with one another. I’m sure there is some organizational process to facilitate that, but that is who they are and it is what they love to do. It would be strange to think that you would be a world-class musician at a school for world-class musicians and you would not play music together. The organization and intent is not to force the unwilling participants to reluctantly play together, it is to enable the members to do what they love and are gifted to do together. In the same way, as a deeply beloved person in the company of deeply beloved people, it would be strange to think that there would be no recognition of the belovedness which bears upon each other, and to respond from one’s own belovedness with love.

for love is from God. We actually get a reason for loving each other, as if it needs a justification. But, it does need it. We are inevitably tempted to think that righteousness is from God, and by righteousness, we mean a loveless moralism pressed upon the unwilling. We think that much needed “advice” is from God. Loveless moralism is not from God. However, love is from God. Moralism that is stripped of affection is not love. So there is a difference between acting from love and acting from judgment. If we recognize that this person we are to love is an imperfect sinner whom Christ died for, and that from the cross He cried out for their forgiveness, we will have a much different attitude towards their sin. We are not in the company of the righteous – we are in the company of the beloved and the forgiven. So, as God loves each of us, we recognize and join in the spirit of that love. We forgive. We persist. We bless when there is no blessing in return. We impart favor upon one another. We give without cost. We understand that the other beloveds in our circle may sin against us, and we hold none of it against one another.

We are not asked apart from God to love. Love is from God. In ourselves we are not the source nor the animus of love. It is not that we love God, but that God loved us! So, it is the love which is from God, sacrificial redeeming forgiving and persisting love, which is the basis of our community. It is not my self-love which is the basis of my belovedness. It is Christ’s love for me which defines my belovedness. I am not the source of my own love, my own understanding and vision and emotional strength is too small. Nor do I want you to be the source of my belovedness. You are a sinner and a judge, much to be feared, just as I am towards you. I need Christ’s love to define my belovedness, and I need Christ’s love to define your belovedness. I need Christ’s love to define our belovedness together in community. I believe this idea is one fo the chief messages of the book of 1 John.

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