Love Comes from God
Bible Reading: 1 John 4:7-21
Some of us are old enough to remember the words from this song: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love; It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now is love, sweet love; No not just for some, but for everyone. Lord, we don’t need another mountain; There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb; There are oceans and rivers enough to cross; Enough to last ’til the end of time.”
Written by a fellow named Hal David, Burt Bacharach added the music, and Jackie DeShannon sung the song. The song became quite popular and peaked at number seven on the US Hot 100 in July of 1965. Those were tumultuous times in America. The Vietnam War was in full swing, a war which would ultimately claim the lives of 58,220 U.S. service members. War protests swept across the country and disagreements among Americans about the rightness of the war served as inspiration for the song’s lyrics. Later, following the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, the song was played over and over on the radio. The song got two things right, the world needs love and if we are to find it we must look to God. Yet it failed to explain how a person might come to know it and show it.
What’s wrong with us? Any student of history knows we humans have an amazing inability to get along with each other. The explanation for our troubles is what we read about in the earliest chapters of the Bible. In Genesis chapter 3 we read of how sin entered into our world. In chapter 4 we read the story of how Cain killed his brother Abel. We humans have been fighting each other ever since. Sometimes in horrendous fashion, just like we are now witnessing in the war in Ukraine.
The problem is sin. We are all born sinners. Sin reveals itself in all kinds of ugly and malignant behaviors. Consider the list in Romans 1:28-29: “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.” The potential for hatred and violence lies hidden in the heart of man. Since we are all born sinners (Romans 3:23, 5:12), we are all fully capable of any of these ugly kinds of behaviors. It’s a good thing God has put some restraining factors in place (the church; human conscience; human government along with its laws and enforcement, etc.), or we humans destroyed ourselves a long time ago!
What hope is there for any of us then? Our passage is full of hope. There is a God who is love (1 John 4:8)! A “God (Who) sent only his Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). He sent “his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” so that we might be forgiven through faith in Him (1 John 4:10). The world does indeed need love, God has loved the world in Jesus. The cross is the proof of that fact. God has worked through Jesus not only to forgive those who believe, but to cause them to be born again. In fact, as this passage explains, “whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). An incredible transformation takes place when a person trusts Jesus and is “born of the Spirit with life from above into God’s family divine” (as the hymn puts it). Those who trust in Him, not only experience His love, they are led and empowered to walk in love too–to love like Jesus.
So, the world does indeed need love, as the song said, yet God has already responded. As J. C. Ryle has said, “The love of God towards the world is not a vague, abstract idea of mercy, which we are obliged to take on trust, without any proof that it is true. It is a love which has been manifested by a mighty gift. It is a love which has been put before us in a plain, unmistakable, tangible form. God the Father was not content to sit in heaven, idly pitying and loving His fallen creatures on earth. He has given the mightiest evidence of His love towards us by a gift of unspeakable value. He has “not spared His own Son—but delivered Him up for us all.” (Romans 8:32). He has so loved us that He has given us His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ! A higher proof of the Father’s love could not have been given.
Love is from God, and Whoever Loves has been Born of God and Knows God
Heavenly Father. We are troubled by all the turmoil that exists in this world. And we are troubled by our own sins. We think about all the bad, and then marvel at the good we find in You. How incredible that You long ago purposed to send Your only begotten Son into this sin-needy place to rescue us from our sins! And through His saving work, You’ve blessed us beyond measure in Your love, adopting us to be Your children. By the Spirit You’ve filled our vessels with love so that we might love others with the same kind of love You’ve shown to us. Forgive us that we are too often selfish in our ways, and not walking according to Jesus’ example. Grant us a renewed understanding according to Your truth, and a renewed capacity to be led and empowered by the Spirit, that the world might see in us that love that comes only from You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.