Friday, June 17, 2011

One Verse I Don't Like

Occasionally (frequently) I crash into passages of the bible that drive me crazy; the kind of verses that make me think that God was really confused when He wrote the bible. They just don't settle or make sense in my mind and I really am not very good at letting go in those situations. I'm revisiting one of those instances this morning.

This is an excerpt from Perfect Love, posted October, 2010.
Last night our young adult group discussed 1 John 4, marvelous. I did get a bit "hung up," as it were, on verse 7, of all verses: 
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." 
Why this verse? Well, our discussion of the chapter led us to question what it means that "everyone who loves" is born of God and knows Him. What does it mean to love? Does that mean that every time someone experiences love, they experience God in some way? Does it mean they take part in God without even accepting Him? What does it mean to be born of God and know Him, for that matter? 
I admit, I had a pretty strong reaction to the idea that you could truly love without the power of the Holy Spirit. Fortunately I was having this discussion with a bunch of mothers, so they shut that down pretty quickly, "Silly little well-rested and unfettered girl, you know nothing of love!" 
Okay, of course I'm joking. I doubt any of my friends even thought that, or if they did, I'm sure they felt bad for it. But in any case, it does illustrate a good point: people can seem to demonstrate and recognize love even before they accept the work of God's Spirit in their lives. Surely a man can recognize the evidence of God's love even if he doesn't know God. 
Still the struggle remained for me; I knew that nothing good can come of the flesh. The only good we do comes by the power of God (Gal 2:20). I still rejected the idea that we can, in our weakness, even come close to showing the love of God without His intervention. 
The argument was then made that perhaps we love as a reflection of God's love but we can't experience, know, or express the love of God on our own. We can experience feelings of a type if love and express loving things. 
While this made sense, I was uncomfortable with an undefined concept of love. My chaotic brain, like a 3 year old, requires structure and defined boundaries. I was especially uncomfortable that we were taking about a concept of love without defining it biblically. The only love defined here was the love that God exemplifies and that HE perfects in us (read verses 9-19, wow!). What is this "other" love of which you speak? 
This is an ongoing argument going on between the left side of my brain and the right. I'd love to add your voice to the chaos!


  1. Haha The last time I said I didn't like a verse, I stopped going to church for a year and half.

    Anyway, It's funny to me that you got caught up on this verse. This very verse is actually one of my favorite verses of all time and the reason why I love the book of 1 John so much! It helped me deal with a ton of person issues when I was coming to Jesus. It reminded me that I was still loved and could still love others.

    "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God."

    Well, God is love. That is pretty easy to comprehend but I do see how you can get caught up in the idea that those who don't know God should not be able to identify or comprehend love in any way. However, in my opinion, I believe that we all come from God, and a little bit of him is embeded in us, which gives us the ability to love one another. Whether it be in hope that that love will make us better people, or will eventually lead us to the Lord. I can't imagine God taking away or hindering or making up "fake" love for non-believers. I think the love that He does give them from the start is in hope that it will guide the person to their Father.

    Now because I was a previous non-believer and I didn't grow up loving God..I have to say I am pretty dang sure I knew/know what love feels like. Nothing compares to the love I have for the Father or the overwhelming Joy He provides me with, but between two grandparents dying and my parents divorce and having to choose sides while wanting both my parents, I think my levels of love and the heartache that also comes with, are quite similar to how I feel now. Maybe that means I need a heart check with God, or maybe I secretly knew that God was love, or maybe God lets everyone love in hopes that someday they will return the love back to Him. Who knows really but the idea of loving one another because all the love in the world comes from God is pretty dang awesome to me.

  2. Hi Mishele!

    "Now because I was a previous non-believer and I didn't grow up loving God..I have to say I am pretty dang sure I knew/know what love feels like. "

    That's a great point and exactly the trouble I had with this verse. I touched on this a bit in the original post. I know love exists in the most beautiful ways in people who don't know God or claim to not believe in God. There's the dichotomy for me.

    Everyone who loves is born of God.
    He who doesn't love doesn't know God.

    Such a simple wonderful truth, right? But it's such a challenge to be so simple, isn't that bizarre? The trouble I have is the way we define love, which itself is vague and subjective. The question then becomes "what is love?"

    Without getting to deep into that, I think that perhaps the most powerful idea presented in this verse is that "knowing" or being "born of" God is dependent not on a theology or belief system but on the reality of our love.

    What I'm learning from this struggle is the narrow, anxious, and self-preserving way that I approach Christianity, some of that comes from my own personality, some of that comes from a "church culture" that tries to create a huge divide between those who are "inside" the church and those outside. If we are "separate" "set apart" and "not of this world" then we are sometimes afraid to have anything in common with the world. We are okay to tell them that they have a "god-shaped hole" but we are afraid to admit that anyone who doesn't follow Jesus can have any idea what it means to be a Christian.

    Jesus says something amazing in Matthew...13? When He's explaining to the disciples why he speaks in parables and He tells them that it is because He has given knowledge to some people and not to others. It also says in Romans 9 that God can choose to harden some hearts and soften others. Now we like to believe that we're the good guys and if someone is one the outside they don't have this special inside knowledge that we have. Sometimes we think that God couldn't speak truth to someone who doesn't believe in Him or is a "sinner."

    THAT'S Why I think I struggle with this verse. There's a part of me that is afraid to say something as vague as everyone who loves is born of God because then all the "bad" people out there are gonna start claiming to know God just like I do. Christianity might lose some of it's exclusivity.

    There's something to be said for holiness and morality but the bigger issue here is that I'm afraid of losing my position. That's not God's heart, fear and pride have no place here.

    Good thoughts, thanks for sharing!!