OKEECHOBEE — Sometimes the Bible packs an infinite amount of truth in a single verse – sometimes even a single word. And when we meditate upon in this verse or word honestly, it explodes the darkness and floods our world with light. 1 John 4:19 is such a verse: “We love because He first loved us.”
Say that verse aloud. Now stop for a minute. Mediate on it. Then say it again: “We love because He first loved us.” Do you realize what this means? This means that the greatest LOVE in the universe is freely given. We cannot create it. We cannot work it up. We cannot make ourselves worth it. No matter how many flights of self-improvement, we cannot earn it. And no matter how many nights of self-sabotage, we cannot spurn it. His love comes first. And because He loves us, we can also love. Alleluia!
And there is more: It is not just that His love comes first once only – and then we are on our own. No! This is the Eternal God we are talking about! If His love is first, it is always first. As Scripture promises, amid great consequences of sin, “His mercies never fail; they are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness, LORD!”
Kierkegaard meditates on this concept, and writes this heartfelt prayer: “Father in Heaven! You have loved us first, help us never to forget that You are love so that this sure conviction might triumph in our hearts over the seduction of the world, over the inquietude of the soul, over the anxiety for the future, over the fright of the past, over the distress of the moment."
"But grant also that this conviction might discipline our soul so that our heart might remain faithful and sincere in the love which we bear to all those whom You have commanded us to love as we love ourselves."
“You have loved us first, O God, alas! We speak of it in terms of history as if You have only loved us first but a single time, rather than that without ceasing. No! You have loved us first many times and every day and our whole life through. When we wake up in the morning and turn our soul toward You – You are the first – You have loved us first! If I rise at dawn and at the same second turn my soul toward You in prayer, You are there ahead of me – You have loved me first. When I withdraw from the distractions of the day and turn my soul toward You, You are the first and thus forever. And yet we always speak ungratefully as if You have loved us first only once…”
Friends, truly, “We love because He first loved us.” If by grace we can grasp the infinite LOVE in this one verse, our lives can never be the same. George Herbert captures this in his timeless poem, LOVE (III):
Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back // Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack // From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning, // If I lacked any thing.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here: // Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear, // I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply, // Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame // Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame? // My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat: // So I did sit and eat.
“True love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Alleluia! This love precedes your every waking, your every thought, your every action. Receive it.
Be free today in divine love! Amen.