International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday, April 19, 2015
Purpose: To receive the gift of perfect love
Bible Lesson: 1 John 4:13–5:5
Background Scripture: 1 John 4–5
1 John 4:13 (CEB)
(13) This is how we know we remain in him and he remains in us, because he has given us a measure of his Spirit. (14) We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the savior of the world. (15) If any of us confess that Jesus is God’s Son, God remains in us and we remain in God. (16) We have known and have believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them. (17) This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world. (18) There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. (19) We love because God first loved us. (20) If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen. (21) This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.
1 John 5:1-5 (CEB)
(1) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born from God. Whoever loves someone who is a parent loves the child born to the parent. (2) This is how we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep God’s commandments. (3) This is the love of God: we keep God’s commandments. God’s commandments are not difficult, (4) because everyone who is born from God defeats the world. And this is the victory that has defeated the world: our faith. (5) Who defeats the world? Isn’t it the one who believes that Jesus is God’s Son?
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
How do you know if you are a Christian? John’s letter seems to be explicit about how we can know. I would venture to guess that there are many shallow professing Christians. Learning to be a Christian is not found in philosophy, the sciences, general education, tradition, or devotion. Learning to be a Christian requires an understanding of God’s love for us, and a sincere desire to know as much about God as we can learn from reading the word he has given us, then accepting that God’s will for us is to love, not only God, but also our neighbors, and enemies.
Our first step comes in believing that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God made incarnate. Next, by faith we accept that premise, that because God has loved us, we can overcome the worldly wiles, and live a life of love. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world, just as the hymn writer says.
Next, being a Christian means we love all of God’s children. Holding grudges, and being cliquish, is not being consistent with John’s definition of Christian. John points out that it is the Holy Spirit abiding within us that testifies to His love for us. We in God, and God in us is how God’s love is made perfect. It is that knowledge that gives us the confidence for the Judgement Day. Most importantly we react to God’s love with love.
John is not talking about a Santa Claus theology, where he keeps track of our shortcomings and judges us accordingly. God loves us, not because we are good, but because he is God, and God is love.
Christians are in a relationship with God. They respond to his love, by doing the things God does. That means loving others, forgiving others, bringing others into that same type of relationship. Obedience is the normal response to any relationship. Children and spouses that disobey soon find that the relationship suffers. In the same way we cannot continually disobey God’s commands and still claim to have a relationship with God.
If God is love, and we are his, then we too should be love. Unfortunately, our English word love is completely inadequate for expressing that type of love. God’s love is unconditional love, agape, not like we love pizza or our car, or home.
There is an old Hymn often sung by George Beverly Shea, “The Love of God” is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell.