Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
What does love look like? If you’ve come across Gary Chapman’s popular book, The 5 Love Languages, you’ll be aware of his thesis that love can be given and received in five ways: physical touch; words of affirmation; acts of service; quality time; and gifts. Love looks different depending on which ‘love language’ you speak.
In this passage, however, John is clear that there is only one way for us to know what love truly is: ‘Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.’ Because the Christian life involves the imitation of Christ, we are called to do likewise – ‘we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters’. This means actions, not just words.
Love involves self-sacrifice. This passage is clear on that – it may not be self-sacrifice that leads to the physical laying down of your life (although it might, and for many Christians around the world, this is a stark reality), but it involves cost. Love costs us something – and it often costs us something we hold dear.
John even gives an example: ‘if anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?’ These words pose a challenge to us: are there people in your church community who have material needs you might be able to meet in some way? Love gives to those in need – and John’s concern here echoes what the Bible says elsewhere of God’s heart for the poor and marginalised more generally.
Love looks like something. It is practical, visible, and active. Although we may find dividing it into five simple ‘love languages’ helpful for building healthy relationships, John is clear on one thing: authentic love is not a matter of saying the right things or making promises, but actually doing something, often at personal cost. It involves sacrificial, practical action.
What might it look like to love – both sacrificially and practically – those in your community this week? What do you have in abundance which you can give away to someone in need? In Jesus, we have a worked example of what love looks like. This week, why not be that worked example of love for someone else?
Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.