What Kind of Love the Father has Lavished Upon Us

1 John is a book that hits on a number of topics, but love sure is one of them. It could be tempting by the time you reach chapter three to just gloss over all this love talk. But if you do you’d miss a beautiful line of Scripture. I actually like the sound of the NIV so I’ll quote from there:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Our understanding of love is defined in many ways through passages in this book as we’re told what love has done, who has loved first, what love should look like now, and so on. But this line has such simplicity and profundity. God’s love for us is visible in the fact that he would call us his very own children. The Christian understanding of how we relate to God is amazing in that fact. There is not some distant God who cares little for the affairs of this tiny world. We do not have a God who tolerates us because of what we do for it. Our God loved us before we ever could and calls us his children. We are no long slaves to sin and bound to death, rather we are rescued from that peril and are God’s sons and daughters.

We are not merely saved from sin then left in a position always needing to please a capricious God who could easily reverse his judgment. No we are saved from sin and saved for God himself. He is faithful to his promises and has adopted us as his children, an action that cannot then be undone. What love God has truly lavished upon us that we are his own, and how overwhelming it is when we fix our mind upon the fact that we are his beloved.

A Letter on Love: Welcome to 1 John

We have now finished our history blitz, at least according to the calendar. Some of you now find yourself wondering what to do with a mere five chapters to read this whole week. Not long ago, if you divided it evenly for each day, we were reading six chapters per day. Others have no idea who these over-achievers are that I’m talking about and are looking forward to this week being when you finish out 2 Chronicles. That is a good plan, too.

Either way, don’t forget we are in a different genre with 1 John. Take your time. Ask yourself what issues may have been present that caused John to write on these specific topics. If you only have 1 John to read this week, try reading it once through in a sitting and the again slowly. See if that helps you to get a sense of the larger message. There is plenty packed in this short book–we spent almost a whole year studying it not that long ago!

More on Colossians 1

I put up the picture inspired by Colossians 1 on Monday, but I did so without explanation. So I thought today I’d talk more about what I see going on in the opening of the chapter. Paul writes beginning in verse three:

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

You may have noticed by now that Paul likes to use long sentences. This is one good reason to slow down and make sure you’re understanding what he writes. The picture from Monday centers in on ‘hope’ and I did this because although it comes later in the passage, we hear that it is a cause for the faith and love about which Paul has heard. Their hope–their goal, their promise–spurs them on to have greater faith in Christ and to spread his love to others. Christians who journey toward the goal, who are bound to the hope we have in Christ, should exhibit in that journey the characteristics that arise from that hope: love and faith.

Later in verse five Paul tells of where this hope is found, that is in the word of truth, the gospel. These words have power as they have not only taken hold in these Colossian believers, but in the whole world. Where the gospel is sown it bears fruit and this fruit is faith, hope, and love.

The Colossians know what their end will be, they have their hope, and they are exhibiting the marks of followers of Christ, faith and love. But Paul then goes on to pray for them so that they may know best how to live. They are already trusting Christ and loving the saints, but he wants them to excel in it. Paul wants them to know what faith and love will continue to look like, so he writes:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

Christians surely know we should have faith, hope, and love. What can be difficult is having the wisdom to know not only the what but the how. This is Paul’s prayer. He wants them to know God’s will for them and to have the wisdom to discern how to follow his will. This is not an endeavor to begin alone so we need the strength of God’s power to endure this life, and to do so with patience and joy.

Even though Paul gives thanks to God when he thinks of his fellow Christians, for their love and faith, he reminds his reader that this is not something we’ve achieved on our own, rather it is the Father who has qualified us to receive all we have.

Keep reading Colossians and you’ll see a beautiful picture of Christ and what he has done for us, and how what he has done is sufficient for all we’ll ever need.

Love and (More than) Marriage

I bet if you’re married, there is a very good chance that a certain passage from this week’s readings were a part of your wedding ceremony. 1 Corinthians 13 is a favorite passage for couples to use at their nuptials.

Of course, I hope love is part of a marriage, so I don’t think it is out of place to use this passage. But given that this passage on love is so linked for many to weddings, we need to make sure we remember this scripture applies for all. Love is patient is not only for couples. You don’t have to be married for your love to rejoice with truth, bear all things, and not seek its own way. This chapter is lifted up as a goal for how we should love, but just don’t think it is the goal only in marriage. All Christians are called to follow the self-giving love of Jesus Christ, who even loved his enemies.

It would be much easier if I only was called to love my spouse. Even still, I’d fail. But it’d be easier. But it is the more challenging way of disciples of Christ to hear this as a call for all of us to love our neighbors in a way that pushes us and requires great reliance on God’s Spirit. For we can do many amazing things, but if we have not love, we are nothing.