November 12, 2017
The Heart of the Matter: Agape
1 John 4:7-21 is one of the most important passages in Scripture because it gets to the heart of the matter of the Christian life: agape love. There are four things about agape love that we must understand, because it is radically different from the loves we find in our culture. First, agape love is the love that lays down its life. Second, it is the love that refuses to cling to its rights. Third, it forgives sins. Fourth, it brings life where there was death. With that in mind, it can be helpful to reread 1 John 4:7-21, making substitutions for the often confusing word “love.”
Dear friends, let us lay down our lives for one another, for the love that lays down its life comes from God. Everyone who lets go of his rights for the sake of another has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not lay down his life but clings to his rights does not know God, because God is self-sacrifice itself. This is how God showed his willingness to lay down his life among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is the highest of all loves: not that we laid down our lives for God, but that he laid down his life for us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God laid down his life for us, we also ought to lay down our lives for one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we lay down our lives, surrender our rights, and forgive one another, God lives in us and his agape is made complete in us.
This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the self-sacrificing, rights-refusing, sin-forgiving agape love God has for us.
God is the nature of self-sacrifice. Whoever lives by laying down his life lives in God, and God in them. This is how self-sacrificing, rights-refusing, sin-forgiving agape love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear when you lay down your life for another. But perfect sacrifice drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in agape.
We lay down our lives because he first laid down his life for us. Whoever claims to be willing to die for God yet wouldn’t give up anything for a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not lay down their life, surrender their rights, and forgive the sins of their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot be willing to die for God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who sacrifices everything for God must also sacrifice everything for their brother and sister.