Tangible Love–1 John

If you truly love someone, you’ll do more than just say so.  Why?  Because love is more than a feeling; it’s a choice of the will to act in ways that also communicate love.  As my thoughts from a few years ago will confirm:  Actions always speak louder than words.

Today (Sunday, 14FEB2016), as I prepared some little Valentines for my “sisters” at church, I had a passing thought about my purpose for doing this extra work.  I simply wanted all my lady friends to know that they are loved.

All this was not deep thinking but rather casual, quick thoughts.  Somewhere in the midst of all these “shallow” thoughts, though, came a very attention-grabbing one that motivates this journaling because I don’t want to forget it.

I can’t retrace the train of thoughts that brought about this fascinating idea; I only know that somewhere and somehow this morning I thought about how we need tangible reminders of the fact that we are loved—something that we can see, hear, feel/touch, experience.  (As I write this, I’m remembering my own young adult experience of craving some kind of tangible love to back up all the verbal reminders that I was loved.  I wanted to feel love, not just know that I was loved!)

That made me think of 1 John 1:1-3, where John, the love apostle, emphasizes through repeated reference to the human senses that Jesus was a real, tangible manifestation of God/Life.

Later in 3:16-18, John exhorts us to not love only in word but also through actions.  In other words, we are to provide some tangible love—something that can be felt/touched, heard, seen, and otherwise experienced!

Chapter 4:11-12 also addresses our duty to love others.  Here (v.12) John reminds us that God is intangible; He can’t be seen.  Yet if we love one another, God’s love is “made complete in us.”  (I’ve got a whole blog just for 4:12; check it out!)

Five verses later (v.17) we see again this idea of “love [being] made complete among us …, [because] in this world we are like Jesus” (NIV).  (Also, note how v.10 expresses that God didn’t just love us, He did something to show it—He sent His Son.)

I read through all 5 chapters of 1 John before I started to write, so as I double-checked that 1:1-3 was the accurate passage I wanted to reference above, I noted that in verse 2 John says, “we proclaim to you the eternal life” (NIV).  Throughout the rest of the book, he frequently talks in various ways about a message being declared and heard.  Sounds like just a bunch of talk—the very thing John said to not be doing exclusively!

Yet, I doubt very seriously that using words was the only thing that the apostles ever did, although they certainly did plenty of it as they proclaimed the gospel in person and as they wrote what we now call the Bible.  And based on what John and the other Gospel writers tell us, we know that Jesus didn’t go around just preaching and teaching.  Jesus was a doer, a tangible-love provider.  Consequently, it is safe to assume that His disciples were also not just talkers but were doers as well.  (True disciples imitate their teacher.)

Jesus was a doer, a tangible-love provider.

Jesus didn’t just talk about God’s love, He showed it.  In fact, He was the embodiment of God’s love.  God has not just said that He loves us, He provided something—or better, Someone—tangible to prove His love.  He gave us something—someone we could not only hear, but could touch, see, handle, … well, you know … what John said.

Jesus is no longer physically among us,, though.  So, how can people today experience His tangible love?  By His followers showing love like He did.

After He died, rose again, and ascended back to Heaven, His disciples carried on His work of both declaring and doing tangible love.  As those first-generation Christians—those blessed to actually see, touch, and hear Jesus in the flesh—began to face their deaths, they earnestly sought to keep tangible love perpetuating.  Their call for this is strong and obvious in their writings.

True disciples imitate their teacher.

Jesus may no longer be physically among us, but when we current disciples do more than just talk about God’s love, He is certainly present as we bring tangible love into the lives of others.  In that moment, we are making Christ real, making God’s love real.

No wonder John tells us that we ought to love one another and show it through tangible acts of love.  It’s what God did with Jesus.

Give people something tangible—be it an object, an action, or an experience—to support that head-knowledge truth that God does love us.  Put the “really” in the phrase “God loves you.”

 

Thanks for reading!

For more on how to communicate love in a way the recipient will truly receive it, check out the book called, The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman.

 

Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. http://www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

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