SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
1 John —
Key Verse: Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. - 1 John 4:11
Beloved, not only ought we to love one another, we must find a way to love one another! Because God loved us despite our sinfulness, we must find ways to love others despite their sins.
Let us face it: we are all sinners. Yet we persist in withholding our love from some persons for various reasons.
Some have hurt us, and we are unwilling to forgive them.
Some have been our antagonist, and we cannot forget what they said or did.
Some have chosen a different theological grouping from our own, and we hold that against them.
Some have pulled strings and gotten ahead of us, getting positions we felt we deserved more than they did.
Some have hurt our feelings by saying unkind things, and the hurt is so deep that we think we cannot get over it.
Some have told lies about us, and we will not forget it.
Some have snubbed us, so we decided to return the favor.
Some have been promoted when we felt they should have been demoted for unethical behavior.
There may well be some hostile feelings that we need to deal with, to bring out into the open, seek God’s forgiveness, and make a genuine effort to be reconciled to some brother or sister. As long as we are unwilling, we shall be haunted by these words of John: “He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 3:9).
In his letters, John puts the hay down where the cattle can get to it. He speaks plainly. How could he make it any clearer than he does in verse 7: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.”
If we choose willfully not to love someone, then we admit that we do not know God nor have we been born of God. To hate someone, anyone, is to deny ourselves the joy of dwelling in God.
So what is love? John helps us understand what real love is. He says that God manifested his love when he sent his Son into the world to suffer and die for our sins. In other words, God loved us enough to allow his only Son to die so that we might be saved from our sins and receive the gift of eternal life.
While no one has seen God, we can know that he is present in our lives. The evidence is that we love one another, for if we love each other, God dwells in us, “and his love is perfected in us.” Wow! What a promise! What a reality for believers!
As a pastor, I experienced the joy of being loved by my parishioners in many churches. It remains an overwhelming experience. They knew me, and knew my weaknesses, but still, they loved me. How was such love possible? Because God dwelled in their hearts, and God is love!
John will not allow us the luxury of hating even one person. Think about it: to hate just one person separates you from God. If we refuse to love a brother, then we abide not in God but in death!
Can you think of someone about whom God may be saying, “It is time for you to do what you can to let me heal this relationship. Cease your hatred; begin to love before it is too late.” Will you take the initiative, with God’s help?
Jesus insists that we love our enemies. Sometimes the truth is, our enemies are within the church itself. Somehow, by the grace of God, we must find ways to forgive those from whom we have withheld our love, and offer them our love no matter how difficult it may seem to do it.
God will have it no other way. We must listen again to John’s tough message, and act upon it: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”
We ought to do it. We must do it. We can do it, or we shall cut ourselves off from God. That we cannot survive – in this world or the next! + + + + (Walter may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)