The following is an excerpt from Love is a Verb: A one-year spiritual practice resource, written by Leo Hartshorn. The resource explores the 2017 convention theme Love is a Verb through the lens of Richard Foster’s six spiritual streams. Download the entire booklet from the Mennonite Church USA resource center.
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 that we might live through him. 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 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 … God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. —1 John 4:7-12, 16b (NRSV)
Can love be commanded and logical? Well, the writer of 1 John thinks so. Let us love one another. And that’s not the first time we have heard that. Here is the logic of divine love: If love is from God, then those who love belong to God and know God. And whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. Isn’t that logical? Divine love doesn’t fit into our general understanding of romantic love. It is commanded. It is logical.
It seems reasonable to expect that if God’s essence is love, then those who belong to God enact love for one another. Logically, the opposite should be true. Since God is love, those who do not love one another do not belong to God. Again, it fits the author’s either/or perspective. And it may be uncomfortable logic, but it is reasonable according to the logic of the writer’s spirituality. Those who love one another are born of God. Those who do not love one another are not born of God. There is no middle ground. I suspect that most of us may squirm a bit at this kind of clear-cut spiritual logic.
The author appeals to the model or story of God’s love. Divine love is fully shown in the sending of God’s Son into the world so that we might live through him — through his atoning sacrifice. This act of love precedes any type of love that we might have shown toward God. Here is the logic of God’s love. Since God has loved us to the extent of sending Christ, even into the realm of death, for us, then we ought to love one another.
No one has seen God, but we see the love of God in our love for others. By loving one another, we know that we abide in God and God abides in us.
The real evidence of the unseen God is seeing our love for one another.
God’s presence is in us when we love one another. This is the logic of divine love.