This past weekend I had the privilege of spending some time with a group of high school students on our annual retreat. As a community we devoted a good portion of our time to silent meditation on four verses from the Holy Scriptures. Here are some reflections springing from that time of meditation.
Fourth Meditation: 1 John 4:7
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”
In the light of all we have seen of God’s goodness in the past few days, the command to love one another takes on profound significance. This is not a matter of mere altruism or social niceties; this is a call to die absolutely to oneself and live wholly for others—as Christ did.
Perhaps grasping all that is meant by this command makes sense of the enigmatic second sentence. How is it that everyone who loves has been born of God? If everyone who loves has been born of God, then it follows that only those who do not love have not been brought to new life by a gracious God. Most people love to some extent or another. Does this imply some sort of squishy universalism? Has John slipped from lofty heights of orthodoxy to cheap sentimentalism?
But then we return to gospel love. Love is more than warm fuzzies for those who have won our good favor. Love is death. For all real love is self-sacrificial.
Only those who love self-sacrificially have been born of God. This is the love of Christ: pleading with God to forgive the very men and women who stand huddled beneath the cross on which they have crucified him, even as they shout abuse and cheerful damnation against the spotless Substitute. And in his death this crowd receives life.
If that is the standard of love . . . well, then we can affirm John’s superficially heretical statement. For only those who have looked on the Crucified with full contrition and perfect adoration could ever love so dearly.