This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us…
1 John 4:10 (NIV)
As number of years ago our daughter lived in the Catholic Worker community in Des Moines. She participated in the communal living and, as part of that community, daily worked to serve the poor and homeless.
One of the observations she shared with us from her time there was a realization she came to as she listened to people sharing their stories. Person after person shared tales of brokenness and the insecurity of being one step away from homelessness and the hopelessness of having no safety net. Then came the understanding that she has never, and likely will never, experience that reality. She has a safety net. In fact, she has multiple safety nets of family and friends who love her and to whom she could turn in need. Love, safety, and provision had always flowed freely, surrounded her, and remain a phone call away.
In today’s chapter, John continues to write to Jesus’ followers about love. What struck me was that there is a flow to the love John describes:
- Love comes from God…
- Everyone who loves is born of God…
- This is how God showed his love, by sending his son…
- This is love. Not that we love God, but he loved us and sent his son as a sacrifice for our sins.
- He has given us his Spirit.
- We love because he first loved us.
The source is God. God is love incarnate. Love flows down, in, and through.
Father (God for us) love creates, gives, sends
Jesus (God with us) love comes down, touches, gives, and sacrifices
Spirit (God in us) love indwelling, flowing through
As I enjoy being endlessly reminded, the Greek word for Trinity (Father, Son, Spirit; Three is One; One is Three) is perichoresis, literally “circle dance.” When I, standing like a wall-flower at the middle-school mixer, choose to accept the invitation to join God in the dance, then I join the circle. I participate in that dance; I become an active, participating member of love’s flow:
Me (God through us) receiving, changing, forgiving, giving, loving
Then I get to this from John’s letter: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” Suddenly I find myself thinking of those I’ve met along my journey for whom God is punishment and condemnation. That’s always been their experience just as Taylor’s friends at the Worker who have never gotten to experience love, security, and provision. How tragic that humanity’s penchant for works-driven religion based on shame, guilt, punishment, and condemnation continues to flourish. It flourished in Jesus’ day, too. That’s what He spoke against.
In the quiet, as I mulled these things over in my mind this morning, I realized that there is a certain relationship between my willingness (because willingness plays a part) and choice to accept, receive, and experience God’s love and the extent to which that love can transform me and flow through me to others. And that’s the point. How can love’s transformational work be experienced by those mired in punishment and condemnation if it doesn’t flow through me to them by my acts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control?
And, that’s where yesterday’s uncomfortable realization continues to motivate me to be willing and decisive to let more and more of God’s love transform me so it can flow through me with greater power to others.
Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Let love flow.