Our bible study group is going through the books of John. If you’ve never read the book of 1 John, the word “love” comes up a LOT. In fact, John gets very specific and descriptive about what love is and isn’t. Over and over he tells us that if we love God we will love others and that if we don’t love others then we don’t truly love God. John tells us again and again that if we hate our brother then we do not have love in our hearts but if we love our brothers (and sisters) then God’s true love abides in us. Follow me for a minute.
In 1 John 1:5-10, John tells us that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. He goes on to say that if we have fellowship with God we will walk in the light also. We will sin, yes, but we will not lie about our sin but rather confess it to God and then he will forgive us and cleanse us from our sins. Then in Chapter 2, verses 7-14, John warns: whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness; whoever loves his brother abides in the light. And in verses 15-17 of Chapter 2 John adds that if we love the world (and its desires) over God then we do not have the love of the Father in us.
Then (I really like this part, it’s important – hang on to this) in Chapter 3 John says:
14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
And in Chapter 4 he continues (sorry this one is a little longer):
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have 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 ever seen God; 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. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
John can tend to sound a bit rambley and repetitive, but I believe he is just trying to impress on his readers how important love is. He goes as far as to say that true love from God will cause us to “‘lay down our lives for others.” This goes hand in hand with the verse from the gospel of John in chapter 15 and verse 13: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.”
As I read these passages I began to ponder those verses and the phrase “lay down your life.” Most people automatically jump to the extreme, envisioning throwing themselves in front of a bullet to save their spouse, their child or their sibling. Sometimes, that might be the case. And for Jesus, it certainly was. But as I meditated on that verse I pondered the less extreme interpretation. Laying down my life to save others. Giving of my time. Giving of my skills. Giving of my resources. Perhaps even laying down hopes and dreams and desires. Laying down myself to save my husband, my children, my family, and even friends, church members, and new acquaintances from the death of sin. Whether they are lost and drowning in sin, or whether they are already a child of God in need of encouragement and prayer in a particular struggle with sin, 1 John tells us that others will see God in us and through us when we love them.
So what does that mean for me?
Looking at love through the lens of the gospel rather than that of the world certainly shifts the perspective from ‘me’ to ‘them.’ It brings to mind the giving of myself every moment that I might be love to my husband (rather than romantically showering him with lust or like when the moment is just right as the world is wont to do) so that he might know God better. It gives visions of laying my life down daily as I sacrifice my time and efforts to make God visible to my children that they might know him. It goes beyond that, into other relationships I have. But lately God has been showing me a lot about loving my husband.
Sometimes it’s harder to love those who are closer to you because they know just how to push your buttons. Sometimes it’s more difficult because they can become so comfortable with you that they seem to take you for granted or forget to use their manners. It can be hard to love at times because we let ourself get in the way – the day we had, how we are feeling, things we have to do. Often it is harder because we are looking at what we are giving versus what we are getting – which is clearly not the perspective we are supposed to have.
So when our husbands prove to be human (and they will, because they are) and when they make mistakes (because they will, and so will we) what is there to do but love? The bible is pretty clear. Love one another. 1 John is pretty repetitive about it. If you love God, you will love your brother (or your husband, or your best friend, or your co-worker.) And if you love them the way God loves them, you will lay down your life for them. So if that means that I have to give on the way I think things should be done, and if that means I have to compromise on what I want to do, and if that means that I must give up or postpone a few desires or dreams to meet the needs of my husband – all so that I can be love and light to him and bring him closer to God – then so be it. Because truly loving him as I ought, his relationship with God and our relationship together in God is so much more important than anything else going on in this world. And I don’t feel like I’m losing out on anything. I feel like I am taking hold of so much more.