I know it. I learned it as a song when i was a child. Teaching scripture in song is a very successful method for me. I can't forget it. Recently, i read that scripture again, and it was the part after the song that caught my attention. Well, first, let me sing you the song.
Let us love one another. (echo: love one another)
For love is of God, and everyone that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God.
He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is Love. (echo: God is love.)
Let us love one another. First John, four, seven and eight.
I turned 39 1/2 this week, and i've known this song since i was something like 4 1/2. And all that time, i think i've been reading it wrong. I've been reading the words of this song as an indictment. I hear this snotty voice in my head, mocking me, "you just don't know God. you would act right if you knew God!"
But after the song is over, and i keep reading the rest of the verses, (after roughly 35 years), i am finally starting to read this scripture another way. Verse 9 says that God demonstrated His love to us, by sending Jesus into the world, so that we could live through Him. Dot, dot, dot, verse 11, "if God so loved us," and the purpose was to make so that we could live through Jesus, who IS love, then we ought to be using that love on each other.
Reading the rest of the paragraph, i can see that John is trying to get across that we have been equipped by God, for the purpose of letting people SEE God! Not by wispy images in the clouds (no offense to anyone) or on your toast, but by being able to see love, because God is more than the author of love. He IS the love!
One night last week, during the time that i had been spending time thinking about this scripture, my husband was flipping through the channels, and we heard a couple of minutes of a comedian's act on some comedy show. I'm sorry i didn't catch the fellow's name, but here's the gist.
He said "all the greats," including Jesus and Buddha and Ghandi and Martin Luther King, all seem to conclude that LOVE is really important. You should love people. That's what the authorities say on living a good life. The comedian then got the laughy part of his act going with the question, "have you met people?" His point (or the one i got out of it) is that people are hard to love. Did Jesus actually meet all these people He wants us to love? It's true. People are hard to love. People are selfish and rude and condescending and whiny.
Turns out, however, that i am one of these hard-to-love people. And God does know me. Every dirty, whiny, weak, cowardly, lackluster, hidden, part of me, and He loves me anyway. Not just out of some strange attraction to the awkward girl in the corner. He loves me (and all of mankind) enough to actively pursue us when we had no interest in Him. And that's why, through His amazing, unspeakable power, i can "love one another." Because i am "one another," and if i have come to know any part of the amazingness of His love for me, i have to love all the other one anothers. I can't help it, not if i'm paying any attention to God's love for me.
And that is why, "he that loveth not, knoweth not God." It's an invitation, really. If you're not loving the one anothers, you will do well to spend some more time getting to know the One who knows you, better than you know yourself, and loves you more passionately than a mother loves her child, with a love that's more unhinged than the naivete of newly weds who haven't yet discovered each others' faults, and more powerful than all of the waves of the ocean, and hotter than the core of the earth. When you get to know the Author of that great love, you will have more than enough with which to love all the other one-anothers, like you. "Everyone that loveth...knoweth God." Because that's the only way to pull it off.