Love: The Family Resemblance

1 John 4:7b-8 “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

We have been born of God and know him like a child is born from his parents and knows them. John is describing the new birth and the knowledge of faith. By revealing his love to us, God has made us children.

            With our own children, don’t we expect a family resemblance? I could walk you through the features of my own face and tell you whose side of the family it came from. Eyes, ears, nose–dad’s side. Teeth and hair–mom’s side. The rest of it–some kind of mixture. I could do the same thing with personality traits, and skills that I have. Some it has been taught, that is true. But much of it is inherited, because I am my parents’ son.

            So it is that God’s kind of love fits us, not just because God’s love teaches us what to do. It is because God’s love has given us birth. It is part of the new life he has created in us. It is part of the family resemblance that comes with being his children. We have things to learn about loving the way God loves, that is true. But God’s kind of love comes with the change that is worked by faith. It’s our spiritual inheritance. Since it fits us this way, let us love each other.

            Now John becomes even more specific about the place God’s love has had in our lives, and why that urges us to love each other as well. You already know this, but can we get tired of hearing about it? God’s kind of love saved us. “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 (vs. 9).”

            God’s love sent his Son into the world. God’s love gave us Christmas. Have you ever considered how hard this was for him to do? When my daughter chose to stop commuting between our house and school, and I saw the apartment she had chosen for the first time, my heart sank. The neighborhood seemed a little iffy. The maintenance of the buildings looked substandard to me. The young man who lived across the hall was one of these guys who needed someone to staple his pants to his waste, if you know what I mean. I was concerned. Still, she had a good roommate. Other people from school lived in the same complex. The locks on the door were secure. We were only a few miles away. And today she is alive to tell about the experience.

            When God sent his one and only Son into the world, he sent him to a planet filled with his enemies. He gave him no special protections. He knew that he would die here. But this is God’s kind of love: He did this so that we might live through him. He did this not because he needed it, but because we needed it. God’s kind of love sent his Son into the world to save us.

            God’s love not only gave us Christmas, it gave us Good Friday and Easter, too. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (vs. 10).” God’s kind of love sent Jesus to atone for our sins. Here, I am all out of stories and illustrations, because there is nothing else like it in all the world. All I can do is state the facts. This is a love so astounding that many even who claim to follow Jesus struggle to accept the full meaning of what Jesus has done. It seems so unbelievable. The entire human race lived under God’s anger because of our sins. If God were only fair and just, he could have demanded that we suffer the full penalty in hell. That is not what he did. He sent his own Son Jesus. He not only helped us pay for our sins. He paid the full penalty himself. He gave up his own life and died in our place. He suffered our hell on a cross to satisfy God’s justice and turn God’s anger away. Who would do such a thing? I know of no one else. But that is God’s kind of love, the kind of love that saved us.

            That kind of love calls for just one response: “We ought to love one another.” But our love will always be dependent on this: “God so loved us.”

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