In the passage 1 John 4:7-21 the beginning and the end command us to love one-another.
It’s like a love one-another sandwich.
In v7-8 it reads,
“Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
And v21 says,
“And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.”
Whether there is an issue within the churches John is writing to, I’m not sure. But he certainly makes it clear that loving one-another in an important part of what it means to be in community together.
Because love has come from God we are to love one-another.
To love one-another is an expression of what it means to love God; a visible expression of God being a God of love.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to find churches who have within their history periods of time where loving one-another is lacking.
But a church devoid of love is like a tap without water.
A church devoid of love is like a football team without players.
A church devoid of love is like an orchestra without its conductor.
A church devoid of love is like cushion without stuffing.
A church devoid of love is like a car tyre without air.
A church without love is an unmitigated disaster.
And I wonder whether John would suggest they are really a church at all.
In his book, ‘The Compelling Community’, Mark Dever writes,
“To follow Christ is to love other Christians…Love between believers isn’t a sign of maturity; it’s a sign of saving faith.” (Dever, 52)
And John seems to suggest this here in our passage. The church, when loving one-another, show they are people who truly believe in the Lord Jesus, acknowledge his saving grace, and understand his atoning sacrifice for sin.
We may know these truths individually and personally. But, we should also see and know it together as a community, as a church.
Love between believers is the sign of a faith that is grounded in Christ and confirmed by the Holy Spirit.
In the same book, Dever says,
“Our greatest confirmation of the gospel is the community of the local church. Therefore, our best strategy for reaching the world is to fan that community into a raging inferno of supernatural witness that will be far more attractive than any adjustment to our music, small groups, or sermons could ever be.” (Dever, 192)
The love of one-another within the local church is what is attractive to others. It is the love of one-another that stands out to visitors and non-believers. It feeds into the mission and evangelistic edge of the church that we are called to be part of.
As Jesus meets with his disciples for the last time before his death he says these words in John’s Gospel, 13:34-35,
““I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
And in Romans 12:10, Paul writes,
“Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Out do one another in showing honour.”
Through the love we have for one-another people see the gospel worked out in practice as we build one-another up through love.
When a local church is going through hardship, significant conflict and disagreement, there will often be less people drawn to the church. The effect of a church lacking in love will mean that there are less new people coming along and less people turning to Christ. On the other hand, when a church displays love for one-another the love of Christ is displayed for all to see. It can be seen and felt within the church itself and draws people in.
It is through our love for one-another in our church that expresses the love God has for us.
In my previous blog post I started by talking about the movie Frozen. How Anna can only be saved by an expression of true love.
We too can only be saved by an expression of true love. This expression of true love is God sending his Son Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sin. Through the cross God expresses his saving love for us. And building on this, we too can be part of God expressing his love for others by the way we love one-another in our church.