December 26 (Daily reading: 1 John) Of all the key words of Christmas (joy, grace, peace, Savior, etc.), the word “love” is at the top of the list. The theme of love is primary in John’s first letter. He presented both the vertical aspect of God’s love for us and our love for God; and the horizontal aspect of our love for one another. “We love because He first loved us” (4:19). The word “love” is in this letter at least forty times, and the principle “love one another” is stated five times.
John declared that “God is love” (4:8, 16) and that His love is “perfect” (4:18). God revealed His love by sending His Son to die for our sins. “God has sent His one and only Son into the world … as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (4:9-10, NIV). He showed us how to respond to God’s love: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (3:16). Giving ourselves to others is the ultimate proof that we love them as He loved us! In fact, that is how we prove that we know God: “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (4:7).
It is impossible to love God without demonstrating horizontal love for others. Our love for God will be seen in our practical response to the needs of others. “Whoever…sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (3:17). “Whoever loves his brother lives in the light” (2:10, NIV). Refusing to love someone because of their race, religion, politics, even their actions, puts one in a dark place. We know that God is love, but also, “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1:5).
– Al Gary