As we talked about in Tuesday's podcast, John's first letter is an incredibly rich appeal to the churches who received John's letter. As we consider how to better love our neighbor this week, I want to jump to the end of the chapter that comes right before the text we talked about Sunday (1 John 5.6-15):
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 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. 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. We love because he first loved us. 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. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
1 John 4:16b–21 (NIV)
John reminds us that our claim about loving God first begins in the action of loving our neighbor. In fact, he says that you can't have one without the other. Understandably, this is a hard thing to do – almost impossible. But John reminds us at the beginning of this passage that "we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment." In a world where fear is used on a regular basis to prompt us to not love our neighbors, John reminds us that in this world we take on the fear-dispelling nature of Jesus – a nature that is centered, grounded, and continually revolves around a love that operates out of identity with the other ('in the flesh' or incarnation, John would say) instead of fear of the other. May God fill us with that kind of love today and in these days ahead.