Herein Is Love, Not That We Loved God, But That He Loved Us

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DANIEL 11:36-12:13 | 1 JOHN 4:1-21 | PSALM 123:1-4 | PROVERBS 29:2-4

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The rest of Chapter 11 in Daniel is the foretelling of the reign of Herod, King of Judea, appointed by the Roman Caesar of the times as the governor of Judea. 

A more cruel and feared ruler would be hard to find in history: seeking only aggrandizement of self, and terrified at the thought that the Messiah is to be born, Herod orders the death of all male infants throughout the land.  It is because of this decree that soon after the birth of Christ, the parents of this baby flee Bethlehem.  

Turning now to our reading of the first book of John, we find John offering a most vehement exhortation concerning the deity of Christ, and in particular, the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  He says: 

2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

And in perhaps one of the most comforting lines from this book, John say unequivocally: 

4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

John continues with the theme of God’s love, and offers a contrast between our love and God’s.  He says: 

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

I think these verses 7 through 12 almost rival the famous Love Chapter, I Corinthians 13.  And my very personal favorite verse that I claim as my own signature verse is from this very passage. The traditional KJV says it like this:

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  

It can’t be any clearer than that: this love business is not one that we have any claim on really; we don’t even know what it is until we’ve been shown.  And God shows us without ambivalence.

This is an almost unreal love that comes down from above, meets us wherever we are, tells us we are the most precious thing ever, and because of that impossible fact, the perfect love-gift of all is offered to me: Jesus is going to take upon himself my sin so that I might have eternal life.

Are you with me, gentle reader?

But why?  Because that’s love! 

But I don’t have anything to pay for it with!  No payment necessary! 

And herein lies the beauty of it, you see.  If I could pay for it, or if I could even earn so great a favor so as to deserve it, it wouldn’t be a gift anymore. But there’s no mistaking that this is truly a gift — and it’s all mine.  And all yours.

And so HEREIN is love, or THIS IS love:  not that we loved God first, but that He loved us first, and showed us how to love one another.  To love is to give.

John continues to explain God’s love like this: 

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

And why is it that we love God?  John explains:  

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Turning now to our reading of the Psalms, we find David crying out to God for help:

3 Have mercy on us, LORD, have mercy on us,
   for we have endured no end of contempt.
4 We have endured no end
   of ridicule from the arrogant,
   of contempt from the proud.

Finally, a few verses from the book of Proverbs, in which Solomon, wise king of Israel, offers food for thought:

2 When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice;
   when the wicked rule, the people groan.

3 A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father,
   but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.

4 By justice a king gives a country stability,
   but those who are greedy for bribes tear it down.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

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