It’s amazing how God can use certain verses to just – BANG! – open your eyes to a new truth. In an instant. Eyes closed – eyes open. And all it took was a verse. And the Holy Spirit.
Here’s 1 John 4:7-8…
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (ESV)
Okay – we’ve all read that before. If we love others, it shows that we know God. If we don’t love others, it shows that we don’t know God. Pretty simple. Like a math equation. No love = no relationship with God. So what’s the solution to the “no love” problem? Well, the rule follower in me is always looking for the rule. If I want to know God, I need to love others. SO – get to work on loving others more. Better. Harder. Try harder to love. Then I’ll know God.
But I’m reading this verse a few days ago and I have one of those eye-opening moments. I realize I’m running this math problem backwards. “New rule: love HARDER.” That’s what I had initially taken away from this passage. But have you ever tried to “love HARDER?” To force yourself to be a loving person by gritting your teeth and loving HARDER? It’s ridiculous! Like trying to force yourself to weigh less or force yourself to speak in another language! (“If I try hard enough, I think today I will speak Latin.”) Attempting to produce more love in my life through concentrated effort is a bit like attempting to grow extra fingers by thinking really, really hard. About fingers. Maybe there’s someone out there who can do it, but it sure ain’t me.
The elements of my math equation were correct. Love is a sign of relationship with God. But I was solving the equation backwards. I don’t prove I know God by trying to love harder or better. I improve my loving by focusing on my relationship with God. There is nothing I can do through sheer force of will to MAKE myself a more loving person. BUT – and this is the great part – I CAN draw closer to God. I CAN spend more time focusing on Him. And what this passage is saying is that, as a result of that focus on God, I will become a more loving person. Automatically.
In other words, love doesn’t come from focusing on love. It comes from focusing on God. Love is the fruit. God is the sunshine, the fertilizer, the soil … everything I need to bear the fruit of love.
The next time you’re worried that you aren’t as loving as you should be, remember that love is a fruit of the Spirit, not a fruit of the you. Focus on love, you’ll be endlessly frustrated with your lack of progress. (And even more unloving due to being so darn frustrated!) Focus on your heavenly Father – and love will fall out of you like apples from an apple tree.
This came at a perfect time for me. Thank you so much!
Love the new site design, love the podcast.
I love this. Not the way I love God…though if I draw closer to God, will I love this more?
But seriously folks, a great eye opener and a great reminder. Thanks!
These are good thoughts. I’ve had similar ones lately regarding all the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit is a result of who we are. It is what it is. We don’t spend time trying to make a bad orange a good orange. If the fruit is unhealthy, we have to go back to the source—to the tree itself, and back to what the tree is planted in. If I have a hard time being patient, for example, trying to be more patient will get me nowhere. That fruit is an indicator about what’s inside. If I want to be more patient, I need to go back to the soil my tree is planted in. How can I be more patient? By remembering that God is patient with me. By remembering who is in control of this world. I can’t be patient by trying to be more patient, just like I can’t make bad fruit good after it’s already been picked from the tree.
Thanks for this insight. As I look back over my life, I can see the truth of it.
The most loving person I’ve ever met was not a Christian. An Indian, raised Hindu. My question is this… Is he going to hell if he dies right now? Sometimes, I see the way he acts, and it’s like the face of God, like how I imagine people felt when they knew Jesus. Absolutely radical the way he treats people.
That’s the sort of question that keeps a lot of people awake at night, and has for hundreds of years. The basic Christian teaching is that you can’t earn your way to God. No one can be good enough to be with God. You, me, your Hindu friend … nobody. So asking, “Is my friend good enough to earn his way to God,” that answer is easy. Nope. No one is that good. Not Mother Teresa – not nobody. So there has to be another way to be with God. And that’s where we get into the story of Jesus.
okay just one more, if someone cries out to be with Jesus after they die, but didn’t believe in him during life, will he reject them? My parents insist to me that it’s too late once you die, but knowing the infinite love and mercy of Jesus like I do, it seems impossible that he could ever turn away like that.. Any thoughts?
We get into that conversation a little on this episode of the podcast … http://philvischer.com/the-phil-vischer-podcast/episode-210-returning-to-hell-with-preston-sprinkle/
Give it a listen. Preston Sprinkle’s book – “Erasing Hell” dives deeply into that, as well as the book “Skeletons in God’s Closet” by Joshua Ryan Butler (who is going to be on the podcast in October.)
Traditional Christian teaching is that it’s too late once you’ve died. Some have challenged that position with alternative interpretations. Either of these books might help, as well as this podcast episode. Thanks for asking questions! Keep it up!
Thanks I’ll check these out! Loved veggie tales btw, huge part of my childhood 🙂