This week we are reading through 1 John 4:7-12. It is here that we find John’s pure distilled Gospel of Love. In these six verses, John uses the word “love” fifteen times. The goal is to discuss all these six verses in one night, although each verse could be an entire lesson unto itself. Please take the time to read these verses over slowly and to think deeply through them.
John begins this short discourse with a short alliterative statement that summarizes the message of his letter: Agapētoi agapōmen allēlous – “Beloved, we should love one another.” John is writing to a congregation in turmoil and he is calling them back to the most fundamental of all Christian values and the foundation of their community – “Beloved, we should love another.” Over the next several verses, John writes that our love for one another is grounded in God’s essential nature and in God’s loving action demonstrated by the sending and atoning sacrifice of the Son.
The word John uses for love is agape from the verb agapao. These words are not used very often in Greek literature but were used extensively in the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. In general, the word means “to love” or “to esteem,” but, like the English word “love” agape can have a broad range of meanings and is dependant upon the context. For example, in the Septuagint, the word agape is used for God’s love for us (Deut. 4:37), our love for our neighbor (Lev. 19:18), but also Amnon’s lust after Tamar (2 Sam. 13:1) and the love of material things (Eccl. 5:10). Therefore, as we read through this selection from John, the context of the New Testament and John’s writings will define “agape” for us.
The Centrality of Love:
As we read through John’s short discourse on love, remember that John is simply passing on what he received from Jesus and which was taught by other apostles. Jesus tells us that all of Scripture depends upon love. Matt. 22:40. Paul tells us that everything – prophecy, knowledge, faith, and sacrifice – is worthless unless they arise of love. 1 Cor. 13:1-3. And James and Peter also stress that the love of one another is the basis of community. James 2:5, 8, 1 Peter 4:8. The centrality of love permeates all of the New Testament.
St. Issac of Syria:
St. Issac of Syria was a 7th century monastic of the Church of Persia (the Christian church east of the Roman/Byzantine Empire). More than any Christian writer, St. Issac is consumed with God’s absolute, irresistible, and prodigal love of which we read about this week. I have never read any other Christian writers that make the love of God more known than St. Issac. For Issac God’s love is the beginning, the middle, and the end. He writes:
In love did He bring the world into existence; in love does He guide it during this its temporal existence; in love is He going to bring it to that wondrous transformed state, and in love will the world be swallowed up in the great mystery of Him who has performed all these things; in love will the whole course of the governance of creation be finally comprised. Discourses II.38.1-2
Dinner is at 6. The menu is chicken parmigiana. Discussion about 7:30 followed by Compline. Hope to see you here.
God is Love.1 John 4:7