Today’s WORD (Text) 1 John 4:17-21
17/ 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. 18/ 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. 19/ We love because he first loved us. 20/ 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. 21/ The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
Love that Overcomes Hatred. Looking at their existence through the lens of human retribution, the Johannine community had cause both to fear and possibly despise the non-Christian world in their day. This community was persecuted for their religious faith. Their Savior and Lord had been persecuted and crucified. Though Jesus was loved by many, he was also despised by many. When John writes, “as he is, so are we in this world,” he was speaking as a co-heir and co-sufferer with Christ. John lived in exile in Patmos. His faith community could have despised their neighbors, but the love of Christ was perfected in them to such an extent that they did not respond in kind to the persecution and rejection they faced. Instead, they responded with the unconditional love of Jesus that puts fear aside in the pursuit of forgiveness and reconciliation. They saw and experienced raw hatred directed at them but concluded that they could not truthfully practice vertical love toward the invisible God, and then fail to practice horizontal love toward others they encountered every day in their social world. The Christian love principle is not easily practiced in an environment where Christians are persecuted for their faith. In such an environment this high expectation was asserted, “those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”
What are some real-life examples wherein Christians are challenged to love others who are persecuting them due to either their faith or other aspect of their identity? How do Christians practice unconditional love in circumstances when they are ostracized due to their faith?
Dear Lord, we confess that your example is often hard to follow. Forgive us when we want to practice an eye for an eye toward others, rather than forgiveness. Teach us to grow in the discipline of unconditional and sacrificial love. Forgive us all those times when we prefer retaliation, fear, and stand-your-ground thinking above the loving generosity of Jesus. Teach us how to love all people, in the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The Passionary Intention
Today, I choose to live my life with passion. Today, I intend to follow Christ more nearly, love more dearly and incarnate God’s grace more clearly by asking myself three questions:
- Where will I follow Christ today?
- To whom shall I demonstrate Jesus’ love and justice today?
- How can I play my part in practicing the presence of Christ, right here, right now?
The Passionary Movement Word and Witness devotion is published weekdays (Monday – Friday). Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, Executive Director of American Baptist Home Mission Societies is the author of today’s devotion.