We love because God first loved us. This sums up John's book of love. John calls us to exemplify, to practice, to participate in the love that we receive from God thru Christ. The only way we are able to love is because we are first loved. The community of believers reflects the love that they receive from God within the community they participate...koinonia (true fellowship with God and one another).
But this very community that John was writing to struggled to live into this because of the divisiveness of understanding of Christ (see previous posts on this). We have trouble hearing "If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar." For John this is troubling not just for his community but for ours. Being the church in the world means living like Jesus lived and loving like Jesus loved (See God is love part 5). Saying I love God but hating others is not in the Christian playbook.
Yet the in authenticity of this very issue is lived out in all of our churches and communities. When I was 22, I left the community of faith for this very reason. I saw people proclaim that they loved the Lord, while they hated their brothers and sisters in Christ. When words don't match behaviors, there is a problem. We are not far removed from this truth. turn on the TV and see Christians spout hate at the next group that doesn't look like them (unaccompanied minors, Palestinians, homosexuals, blacks, Muslims, etc). Anne Lamont said it best; "you know you have created God in your own image when God hates all the same people that you do."
John's premise for his community is that the fullest expression of love was made known to us in Christ (death and resurrection) and because we know this love, experienced it, we are moved to love one another just as God has loved us. True? Yes! Practiced? Sometimes.
My biggest problem with the church community when I left it at 22 was it wasn't willing to be honest with itself and with one another. There was a lack of vulnerability, a lack of willingness to share the pain and joys of life. Hopefully we are getting better at it, after all Jesus' wounds from the cross were healed and show as scars now.
Lord, see us for who we are, broken hurting people in desperate need of your love. Fill us with that love so that we may love like your son has taught us to love. - Amen