No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His own Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son as the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.
I John 4: 12-19
There are two days on which we commemorate St. John the Theologian. They are May 8, and September 26, the latter of which commemorates his falling asleep. This is significant, because of all the twelve disciples, he is the only one that wasn’t martyred. St. John died peacefully on the Greek island of Patmos, where he lived in exile. St. John also has the title “evangelist” because he authored one of the four Gospels. Additionally, he wrote three epistles, as well as the book of Revelation, which was a vision he had of the apocalypse.
In the Epistle reading on his feast day, we read some very beautiful and powerful verses from his first epistle.
I John 4:12—No man has ever seen God—This is why we do not depict God the Father in icons. Humanity has seen Christ in the flesh, but not the Father. Jesus tells us that through Him the Father is made known to us.
If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. (4:12)—We experience God through loving one another. If God is love, then when we love one another we experience God. We know God the Father through our expressions of love. When we come to know God through love, we can also come to know His Son, Jesus Christ, because we will understand the motive the God had, love, which caused Him to send “His Son as the Savior of the world.” (4:14)
God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (4:16) If love and God are synonymous, then the one who is filled with love is filled with God, and the one who is filled with God manifests God through love. God and love go hand in hand. One can love and not believe in God (at least one can claim to not knowingly believe in God), but one cannot love God without loving others. For as we read in I John 4:20 (which is the verse which comes after the conclusion of the Epistle reading), If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God Whom he had not seen.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. (4:18) Love and fear cannot co-exist. Wherever there is fear, there cannot be love and wherever there is love, there cannot be fear. Healthy relationships are based on love. Dysfunctional relationships are based on fear. When you are afraid of someone, you cannot have a healthy relationship with them. There are people whose names pop up on my cell phone and when I see them, my blood pressure rises. That is because the relationship is based more on fear than love. I pray that no one sees my name and is in fear. I’ve written many times about creating environments in relationships where it is safe to be honest. Fear does not allow one to feel safe, and if one does not feel safe he or she won’t be honest and if there is no honesty, there is no trust, or love or anything else. We all need to continue to work towards relationships that are based on love and not on fear.
We love, because He first loved us. (4:19) Here is yet another motivation to love. We love because Christ first loved us. He showed us what it means to love by dying on the Cross for us. If He can die for us, we certainly can show lesser forms of love for others around us. No one is asking us to die today, but showing respect, promoting safety, even sacrificing something, these are things that are reasonable for each of us.
O Apostle, the beloved of Christ God, hasten to deliver us, a people that has no excuse. He accepts you supplicating Him, for He condescended at the Supper to let you lean on Him. Entreat Him, O Theologian, that He scatter the persistent cloud of hostile nations, and pray for us, for peace and great mercy. (Apolytikion for St. John the Theologian, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
God is love and the more we learn about love, the more we learn about God. The more we express love for others, the more we will express love for God. The more we love God, the more we will be committed to loving others.