Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another (1 John 4:10-11).
As I read these verses today, I found myself overwhelmed by my own weakness and inability to keep the Lord’s command. Jesus boiled all six-hundred and some old covenant commands down to one–love one another–and I still can’t manage it.
As John defines it, the love commanded by the Lord is daunting: We are to lay down our lives for others as Jesus did for us (1 John 3:16). This is no “random act of kindness” or feel-good purchase of fair trade coffee. A quick mental survey of my week was enough to make my fulfillment of this command doubtful at best. Even when my actions conformed to love, I’m not sure love was in my heart (which is where it counts, by the way–Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28).
“Overwhelmed” quickly turned to giving up. The only thing I could do was confess everything to God.
In response, the Lord reminded me that 1 John is five chapters long and contains 103 other verses. Among those verses John tells us that God is love, and that God remains in us (1 John 2:24, 4:8). In other words, Love Himself lives in us and loves through us. Jesus laid down His life for us; how much more will He lay down His life in us.
No command of God is meant to condemn us for what is impossible for us. Instead, commands propel us to believe what is possible for God (Gal. 3:24-26). Commands are not expectations to meet but promises received in Christ. “Now His commands are not a burden, because whatever has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith” (1 John 5:3-4).
Our faith looks beyond the behavior we see and judge; it looks beyond the hopelessness of the flesh. Faith sees Christ, the hope of glory, within and conquers the world (Col. 1:27).