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From God to you to others

January 12, 2024
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Daily Scripture

1 John 4:7-12

7 Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. 8 The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. 10 This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins.
11 Dear friends, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God remains in us and his love is made perfect in us.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

The apostle John didn’t just say God loves us. God, he asserted, IS love, and that’s why we can love one another. Scholar Leon Morris wrote, “For [Jesus] love depends on the nature of the lover rather than that of the beloved. Jesus loved because he was a loving person, not because he found attractive qualities in those he loved. His followers are to be loving people, not simply to be drawn to attractive people.” *

  • The Greek agape, as the New Testament writers used it, was very similar to the Hebrew hesed. The source of this kind of active love is not us at all, but God’s eternally loving heart. The God of the universe loves us—that is the reason we are committed to living with one another in love. Which people, in or out of the church, do you find it hardest to love? Pray through this passage, plugging in their names and faces. Ask God to help you live out God’s love toward even them.
  • Why did John bother to say, “No one has ever seen God” (verse 12)? He went on to say, “If we love each other, God remains in us.” In other words, when we’re getting it right, people can see God in us. It’s like the line in Gordon Jensen’s song that says, “You’re the only Jesus some will ever see.” ** As your capacity grows to take in God’s love, to see yourself as loveable in God’s sight, how is this changing the way you see and relate to others?
Prayer

Lord Jesus, let the people with whom I come in contact—yes, even the bored store clerk or the annoying neighbor—see you and your love in me. Amen.

GPS Insights

Leah Swank-Miller

Leah Swank-Miller

Leah Swank-Miller is Director of Student Ministries at Resurrection Overland Park. A Kansas native, she has been a professional actress for nearly two decades, and she loves to see the vastness of God’s creation through theatre and the arts. Leah is pursuing an M.Div. from Saint Paul School of Theology. Leah, Brian, and their two children love to play tennis, golf, soccer, and board games.

Despite our best efforts, we don’t know exactly what Jesus looked like. We have a lot of paintings, icons, and artwork throughout history personifying the Son of God in various ways. I remember growing up with a painting of blond hair and a blue-eyed painting of Jesus hanging in our family living room. History will tell us that Jesus, a Jew raised in Nazareth, would look quite different than our American hippy portrayals. He would have dark skin, brown eyes, and coarse hair. And while I’ve never seen Jesus, the man, face to face, I’ve seen God in the faces of many people who have carried, anchored, mentored, forgiven, and loved me throughout my life.

I’m drawn to this idea that we bear the image of God when we love one another. Even more, we are the embodiment of God’s love. Essentially, we are God’s love in human form. That is what Jesus came to show us how to do; through his ministry, life, death, and resurrection, he shows us how to embody the fullness of God’s perfect love. Do you ever think about the fact that you are capable of literally being the face of God to people? That’s a huge honor; all it requires us to do is love one another like Jesus loved us. This is how the love of God is revealed.

I say this, yet I know that loving anyone is not always easy. My dear friend and fellow student ministry director, Todd Davidson, recently shared a quote by Kurt Vonnegut.

 “Be warned: If you allow yourself to see dignity in someone, you have doomed yourself to wanting to understand and help whoever that is.” 

Why does he say doomed? Because it is hard. It is messy. It is scary to love others. We might get hurt. In fact, we will get hurt. But in the hurt, we grow. In the hurt, we have to depend on others. And depending on others opens us up to the capacity to love others with forgiveness, dignity, curiosity, and compassion. It’s easy to judge one another; it’s far harder to be curious as to why they may be hurting and how we can be the image of God through love.

I don’t believe Jesus ever wanted us to worship him through statues of what we think he looked like. And I mean no offense towards images of Jesus in stained glass windows or hippy paintings on my childhood wall. They have their purposes. But the image of God we are meant to display in the world is through us and how we show love to each person we encounter daily. That person who cut me off on the highway? Yep! The assistant behind the long line at the pharmacy/restaurant/drop-off line? Absolutely. The friend/boss/classmate who used you as a punch line to a joke or was gossiping about you or treated you unfairly? That’s a hard, messy, scary one. But yes, we love them too. Because we have been them, we’ve done the things, said the words, inflicted the hurt. And just like we needed someone to be Jesus to us, we can be Jesus to others. No one has seen God, but they’ve seen you and me. May they continue to see God in us so that in our love, God is revealed.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* Leon Morris, article “Love” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992, p. 492.
** Click here to hear Gordon Jensen sing “You’re the Only Jesus.”