READ: Proverbs 17, Luke 5, 1 John 4
It is humbling to realize that our love for God is reactionary. John is brutally clear that we don’t initiate love for Jesus. “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). There is a sneaky sort of pride which is self-congratulatory about loving Jesus. It is necessary to be reminded we did not initiate love towards God. In fact what we call love for God is not really love at all. “Now this is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propitiation for our sins” (v. 10, emphasis added). Whatever love we initiate for God is inferior to the love He has for us.
Understanding the reactionary nature of our love for God is both humbling and liberating. If we are responsible to source love, then what do we do when we have exhausted our meager resources? If love must originate with me, what do I have to offer God when I am empty of love–as I inevitably will be? Humanity is not designed to manufacture unlimited anything for itself–least of all love. But if our love is reactionary, a response to being loved, then as long as love is directed towards us we have fuel to love in return. We do not have to bear the weight or pressure of producing love for God. We have this unceasing flood of love pouring over us night and day, and love received grants capacity to love in return. God is the source of our love for Him! We can love God because His love enables us to love Him back. God is the source of everything, even our love for Him. Our love for Him can be endless and eternal only when it is reactionary, and His love never fails or flags. Our love for Him is renewed morning by morning.
Our love for Jesus is in the context of propitiation–the appeasement of God’s wrath. John’s definition of love includes the fact that God’s wrath has been appeased. This is how Jesus loved us–He placated the wrath of God by absorbing it, bearing the wrath of God by dying on a cross. Reciprocal love for Jesus is only complete when it includes wonder and horror at what Jesus has done for us at Calvary. Love covers wrath. If we are to love God then, truly love Him, then our reactionary love must include propitiation. “Beloved,” says John, “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (v. 11). One way we evidence our love for Jesus as genuine is when we cover the faults and sins of another. We are not the Christ, we do not redeem, but we can cover sin, absorb hurt, swallow abuse, and suffer for the sake of others. It is mini-love when compared to Calvary, but it is of the same spirit and thus delightful to the originator. How wonderful we don’t have to come up with the ability to love Jesus! We just respond to how He loves us and love others in kind.