“When I was just a lad of ten, my father said to me,
“Come here and take a lesson from the lovely lemon tree.”
“Don’t put your faith in love, my boy”, my father said to me,
“I fear you’ll find that love is like the lovely lemon tree.”
Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.”
– Peter, Paul & Mary, Lemon Tree
Romantic love is not always reliable, brotherly love is not always trustworthy, familial love can let you down. Love in almost every relationship we can have on earth can be strained and leave you hurting. This folk song speaks about the woes of that reality. Love from the outside, love desired, can be very pretty and appear so sweet. But when actually partaken of, it’s not always what we expected it to be.
There is a passage from the book of 1 John that blows holes in this mindset that we can fall into regarding love, and it’s worth sharing and expounding upon.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. – 1 John 4:7-11
Don’t miss the power of those three little words wedged into the middle of this passage I shared.
God is love.
There is a tremendous difference between the idea that God is loving and the assertion that is made here.
Your friend can be loving. Your boss can be loving. Your neighbor can be loving. Your mother can be loving.
But none of the men or women in our life are love itself.
God is not simply loving.
That being said however, it is a wonderful thing that He is loving, but that is not all that God is in the context of love. God has shown that He is loving, namely in the fact that He sent His one and only Son Jesus into the world to bring us life. We don’t inherently love God. We don’t inherently and naturally pour out praises and adoration to our Lord. Instead, before we even sought out His love, He gave His Son Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. All of them.
When things don’t go smoothly in my life, when things don’t go exactly as I would like, it’s naturally easy to immediately start to question or doubt God’s love for me.
It’s easy to say, “if You love me, why is this happening? If You love me, why aren’t you responding to my cries?”
Yet when you doubt God’s loving nature, look to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross. There will you see the unadulterated message of God’s love for you. Even while you were an enemy of His, He gave Himself for You.
God is loving, and He is perfect in that love.
Yet, what calls us to deeper action is the reality that God IS love. That means that God is the perfect embodiment of what love is. Because of this, all love comes from Him. Because of this, we cannot claim to be in an intimate relationship with the God who perfectly embodies love if we do not strive to love our brothers and sisters in Christ in the same way that He loves us.
Because God is love, love comes from God. God is the source of love. Like the electricity running through electrical wires, love comes from God to us, then flows through us to others in the community. When John exhorts his readers, let us love one another, he is encouraging them to allow God’s love to flow through them. – Marianne Meye Thompson
If my phone charger is plugged into the outlet, it will charge my phone (I’m a genius, I know). My charger cannot charge my phone without being plugged into a power source. If it is not charging my phone, it is not plugged into a power source.
If we as disciples of Jesus are abiding in, connecting with, and communing with God, we will overflow God’s love out onto our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We cannot be a conduit of God’s love to our Christian community if we are not abiding in, connecting with, and communing with God.
If we are not loving our Christian community, we are not in full connection with the God who is love.
That is what John is stating in this passage.
Now if you’re anything like me, there are bumps in the road. It is not easy to love our brothers and sisters in Christ at all times. There are times where I feel like I’m walking with the God who is love but still struggling to allow His love to come through me. In the case of my phone charger, sometimes I have to untangle the wires and make sure the connection is coming all the way through. In the case of my spiritual life, sometimes I have to take the time to untangle the dark recesses of my heart and mind as I allow the gospel of grace to deal with any bitterness or unconfessed sin in my life.
We are imperfect followers of Jesus. We are still on the journey of learning to love like Jesus.
I implore you to spend daily time with the Lord, meditating upon His great love for you. The more you come to terms with His love for you, the easier it will become to share His love with others.
And unlike the lemon, when you truly taste the love of God, you will see that it is good.
God is love.
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– Nathan Roach