when i minimize my sin, am i truly "living in love"?
AND SO WE KNOW AND RELY ON THE LOVE GOD HAS FOR US. GOD IS LOVE. WHOEVER LIVES IN LOVE LIVES IN GOD, AND GOD IN THEM.
1 JOHN 4:16
Psst . . . I’ve got a secret for you. I’m a slob at heart.
I try not to be. I don’t want to be. But deep in my soul, I really don’t mind a mess. I don’t care about the dishes on the counter. I don’t need neatly folded clothes in my drawers. I don’t even see that pile of bills and school papers sitting on the buffet. And I have this weird idiosyncrasy: somehow, my soul feels free when I walk in the door, drop my purse, kick off my shoes and leave my coat on the banister. It’s like I’m declaring to the universe, “That’s it! I’m done. I did all my work, and I refuse to do one more thing!” It’s my way of shaking my fist at responsibility and finally relaxing. And the sad truth is, I just don’t feel that same release if I dutifully put everything away before plopping on the couch and exhaling. Here’s the hitch though: my husband, Jason, loves a neat home. Piles and messes get under his skin and make his eye twitch. You can see the problem, right? The thing I secretly love, he genuinely hates. So just this morning, I found myself in the dog house about some random Christmas decor that missed the January take-down event. It’s been waiting 2 weeks to be hauled downstairs and put away (a 3 minute task I said I’d do at least a couple of times). Finally, an exasperated Jason did it himself . . . only to find other piles of random things I’ve been hiding down there and not putting away. Seriously?!? What is my deal??? I made some lame excuses, but the truth is, I know it bothers him. Annnnd his love language is unfortunately “acts of service.” So, he left for work feeling frustrated and unloved by my blatant disregard for his tidy ways. And here I am, sitting down to write about how we can live in love. The timing couldn’t be worse . . . or maybe it couldn’t be better. Certainly, my conscience is pricked by our verse.
“Living in love” is hard.
Our verse says if we live in love, we are living in God and he’s living in us. That’s kind of amazing, but it begs the question: how do we live in love? I kinda feel like the guy who asked Jesus, “And who exactly is my neighbor?”. Jesus had just told him that the second greatest commandment was to love our neighbor. That guy was looking for an out, a loophole, some people he didn’t have to love. And here I am hoping for the same thing. I’m looking at our verse, trying not to feel the full weight of it when the reality is, it’s pretty obvious that living in love is very comprehensive. For me, it means considering my husband’s aversion to piles over my own twisted love for making messes. In fact, I just now called him and apologized for disregarding his feelings and minimizing his frustrations. I recommitted to doing a better job (yes, this is an ongoing problem that has a VERY slow upward trend). God help me!
ON THE PODCASTMeet our February Dwell guest: Debra Fileta! Debra is a Licensed Professional Counselor, and an author of 5 books on healthy relationships. Her heart for Jesus informs her writing, her counseling, and her chats with us this month as we dig into 1 John 4:16.
(CONTINUED FROM ABOVE)
But we’re only just getting going here.
I want to show you something else about this verse that honestly made me uncomfortable. It has to do with that last sentence, “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” It struck me as completely backwards. Shouldn’t it say, “Whoever lives in God and God in them, lives in love”? Shouldn’t the “God in us” part come first? Doesn’t “living in love” flow out of the God who lives in us? We know from the context of our verse (and all of the Bible) that there’s definitely a sequential order to our ability to live in love. FIRST, God comes and lives in us, and THEN we can live in love. John himself makes this clear just a few verses prior to our verse saying, “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7b). So, the prerequisite to our ability to “live in love” is that we already HAVE BEEN born of God. That being the case, why does he flip-flop the order in our verse?
The order must be intentional.
John knows what he’s doing here. He can’t have just said what he said and then forget immediately. No, he’s got a reason. Here’s my theory: he’s flipping the order to make us reflect on whether we actually are living in love. Think back to my story from earlier today. When I read “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” I felt a pang of guilt. This reverse order draws attention to the idea that “living in love” is the evidence of God in me. It’s like a litmus test. And boy did I fail it when I dismissed my husband’s hurts as he started his day. What John highlights by his order isn’t the necessary sequence of events, but the state of our hearts. His order forces us to examine ourselves and ask, “Am I truly living in love?”. If God himself lives in me and I have my life in him, then how am I NOT living in love? What am I overlooking or dismissing or minimizing? For me, this order was a needed wake up call. It brought me to conviction, confession, and restoration. Praise God that his mercies for me are always new! This is the beauty of our verse—we can live and love out of the fullness of God, who lives in us and we in him. Whew. And Amen!
WHAT ABOUT YOU? HOW DOES THE ORDER OF THIS VERSE CONVICT YOU?
HOW DOES IT GIVE YOU GRACE?
WHAT STEP CAN YOU TAKE TO LIVE IN LOVE TODAY?
Thanks for reading,
Meet Natalie,Dwell co-founder
Hi there, I'm Natalie. I'm so glad you're here. I'd love to connect with you and hear more about what God is doing in your life!