When you think of a Christian, what instinctively comes to mind? Initially, I am overwhelmed with two embarrassing pictures of Christianity. The first is of the judgmental Christian, filled with only the knowledge of the commandments and lacking in the grace and love that comes from God. The other is the Christian who goes about taking the Bible out of context and using it for all the wrong reasons. I have shamefully been both of these depictions at times.
I’ve been reading the book of 1 John over and over and over these few weeks. During the time it was written, there were a handful of Christians who were experiencing a crisis of faith with the rise of persecutions and false teachings. That reminds me of today, with the numerous religions and especially with this rise in atheistic values and concepts, I can see why Christianity turns you off. Well, even the intentional or unintentional harm the church has done, I can see why Christianity turns you off.
The book of 1 John tackles this idea of what love looks like, especially chapter 4:
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent his Son as the world’s Savior. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. 16 And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. 17 In this, love is made complete with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because as he is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister. 1 John 4:7-21
Now, I will never preach to you. All I am is an imperfect college student that loves Jesus and loves reading the Bible. Read this for yourself and let the Bible speak for itself. Pray and deeply think about these verses. Consider the boldness of Christianity, my non-Christian friends.
Here is all that I took away from reading these verses with the context of the original passage in mind:
- God is love (v. 7,16)
- Christians love because we are loved by Christ (v. 9-11, 19)
- Knowing that Jesus is love, we do not walk around in fear but in confidence (v. 18)
- Us Christians are called to love Jesus and love people (v. 21)
GOD IS THE DEFINITION OF LOVE.
More often than not we look at primarily the “bad things” that happen in our lives and the biggest conclusion we make is “Well, God cannot exist because if He is a loving God, this would not have happened.” And all of my readers, despite your religion, I am deeply sorry for whatever you’re going through. Regardless of your beliefs, your pain and hurt are just as valid, and knowing that there is a God or not, does not lessen your pain. I understand that.
Would you humbly consider the fallacies in that line of thinking? Would you let the bible speak for itself? To even proclaim that Jesus is not loving is to assume that our finite idea and definition of love is the exact same definition used by God. You can prove that both suffering and unconditional love exist and they do not contradict one another, for example, A: the bible.
But I got off track again, this is not about suffering, this is about how Jesus is love. From worldly ideas and secular entertainment, we have this idea of what we think love is. But when I study Jesus and in which the way He loved, there are discrepancies.
We have this misconception currently that love looks like letting people do whatever makes them happy or what makes them feel like their most authentic self. That’s not what I see when I look at the gospels. But what I do see is Jesus loving and valuing women even when it was culturally inappropriate (Luke 7:11-15), liberating those bound by social injustice (Luke 5:12-15), feeding those who were hungry (Matthew 15:32), sharing the word of God because of His deep love for others and His desire for them to be saved (Matthew 9:36) and there’s so much more I can say, but I refuse because I want you to pick up your bible and observe the steadfast love of Jesus when He walked this earth.
Knowing that God is love is completely overlooked, regardless of the religion we follow, and I encourage us to understand what it means for God to be love and what that love looks like. Before we share the gospel with someone, before we have a difficult conversation with someone and before we attack other Christians, can we look at where the motivation and love coming from? Is it this 1 Corinthians 13 love that is driving everything that we do? Is it this overwhelming love from Christ that encourages us to deeply and wholeheartedly love one another, even those with who we completely disagree?
My Christian audience is much better than I am at this, but if I genuinely considered that, I’d probably shut up much more often.
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
WE ARE KNOWN AS CHRISTIANS BY THE WAY WE LOVE.
This passage echoes a particular set of verses in John 13 in which Jesus states a new command which reads:
34 I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.” John 13:34-35
And that last verse resonates with me, maybe more so now because Jesus is the definition of love. With the truth from the Bible and because we know that we are saved, Christians/disciples are called to live differently. When I evaluate my life and I ask, “How do people know that I am a Christian?”, immediately I think about this blog. People may know that I am a Christian by my colorful Instagram posts, lack of swearing, the way I vote, and obedience regarding the written commandments, and though that may all be true, that is not what Jesus is saying.
I am reminded that it is less about what I stand against and more about what I stand for and how I represent Jesus’ character to the world. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another. Now, that’s convicting. Do others know that I love Jesus based on my love for people?
“I don’t know” is the anticlimactic answer to that. I don’t know. And listen to me, Christians, I am not saying this out of judgment towards you. The only person I am truly “attacking” is myself. Naturally, I am a rule-follower and I cringe as I write this because I love following rules, it bothers me when I see others not following them. Slipping into a Pharisee-like mentality is too easy and it hurts my relationships with others. What is the biggest complaint of Christianity? It’s filled with hypocrites. It’s filled with people knowledgeable in the commandments but lacking in the love and grace that Jesus showed others. I am convicted by this. It’s easy to share a Bible verse. It’s easy to point to a passage and say “hey this is sin, don’t do this! I love you. Don’t do this!” It can be excruciating trying to continually choose to love someone who does not treat you the way you believe you should be treated. The biggest test to knowing if your love is unconditional is to see if you are still capable of loving even when you feel completely unloved. Buckle up, Christians. I am always humbled when I deeply think about the love of Jesus.
He loved us all, even those who hated Him. He loved His Twelve Disciples so much that even they were unable to figure out which one would betray Jesus. Don’t even believe someone who thinks that the Christian life promises no more suffering, Jesus suffered severely. He was mistreated. Yet, still out of this deep unexplainable, and indescribable love for us ALL, He died for our sins so we could be saved. And here I am, I can hardly be nice to someone who makes a snarky comment towards me on my “off-day”.
I hate to break it to you, my non-Christian friends, but if you’re looking for the day that all Christians graduate from being called “judgmental” or “hypocritical”, you’re going to be waiting for eternity. Christian friends, this does not lower the standard for you. Buckle up and do a better job living like Jesus. May I encourage you, my non-Christian friends, to learn about Christianity from the Bible itself and not from my imperfect brothers and sisters in Christ? May I encourage you to deeply consider the differences in what the Bible says about love versus our ever-changing worldly definition of love?
I am a broken and flawed college student who happened to study Christianity to the point where I have complete confidence in the Bible. Broken, yet saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. I will never be able to show you what it means to have true unconditional love for everyone, but I will try my best. If you look to my life and the way I love, I will let you down completely, but may I encourage you to look at the perfect unconditional love of Jesus. He laid down His life for all of us, even those who despise Him so that we could be saved. Our salvation is not based on our works but solely based on our beliefs. Would you, at the very least, consider the joy and relief in knowing exactly what happens after you die?
16 For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17