I John 4.7-21 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
Reflection Last Thursday a group of folks gathered at Barnes & Noble and engaged this text from John’s letter. One person wondered, “What if I made this my one and only spiritual practice, to let God’s love flow through me to all people?” After a few remarks like, “Let us know how that works out for you,” we were quiet then someone changed the subject. The question echoed in me all afternoon. “What if I loved the person who parked too close to my car in the Barnes & Noble parking lot and blessed her with another dent? What if I loved the person I overheard speaking unkind words in the market? What if I loved the person who falsely accused me? or the one who repeatedly misunderstands me? or tries to undermine me? As I progressed through the litany of “what ifs” suddenly the light bulb came on. What if it isn’t all about me?
What if I actually let God’s love flow through me without censoring it according to my needs, preferences or prerogatives? What if I lived as did Jesus responding to false accusations without defense? to trickery with calm and wisdom? to betrayal and cruelty with understanding and forgiveness? Because, if I loved these people I would not fear them. I would not be afraid of threats or false accusations. I would not be suspicious, anxious or apprehensive about being hurt or having something taken away from me because, “There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear.”
There is a beautiful treatise titled, “On Loving God,” written in the early twelfth century by St. Bernard of Clairveaux. Bernard makes two relevant points. The reason for loving God is God’s own self and the measure of loving God is loving without measure. http://people.bu.edu/dklepper/RN413/bernard_loving.html) This is the entirety of our spiritual life; allowing the love of God to flow unhindered through us in response to God’s gratuitous love of us. Perhaps it is time for us to add a couple of words to our old “No Fear” tee shirts and mugs….“No Fear in Love,” so that we can get on with the business of being love perfected in the world.
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