Reciprocal Love; Impersonal Love to All Believers; 1 John 4:19-21
Understanding reciprocal love helps us to handle unrealistic expectations in life
- Many people feel that they have never been loved or accepted the way that they want to be loved or accepted; they haven't been treated the way that they think they ought to be treated. This is often used as a justification for certain activity—"Because I was never loved; I was never treated right." Unrealistic expectation is a trap that leads to self-absorption, to self-pity, to all kinds of mental attitude sins and creates a trap that leads to fragmentation of the soul. It begins as a child, a teenager or a young adult when we begin to think that we should be treated differently from the way we are. The solution to this is having a view of reality based on doctrine. The view of reality is that people are always going to fail us and whether the failure is real or perceived we have to come to grips with the fact that there will always be disappointments in life and things will never be the way we think they ought to be. There will always be problems with people because people are sinners and we can never base our happiness, our stability, our future, our success, or anything on how other people respond to us. Once we become people-dependent we have paved the road to a self-destruction, unhappiness and misery.
- Unrealistic expectation (because we are divorced from reality) in combination with an ignorance of biblical truth destroys the focus of the spiritual life. Unrealistic expectation always puts the emphasis on disappointment and loss—on what I don't have, what I missed out on, what people didn't do for me. Motivation then comes to get people to fulfil our expectations. We want to manipulate people to do what we want them to do, expect them to do. We think that happiness comes from getting them to resolve our disappointments and to fulfil our expectations. If that is our motivation then that is going to filter through to every single relationship we have. It will affect marriage because there will not be real love but a love that becomes a way to manipulate the other person to fulfil expectations of how we think we ought to be treated.
- The result of this is perpetual carnality in life and the only solution is confession of the sin of arrogance and self-absorption.
- We have to realise that only God can love us the way we ought to be loved because God's love is based on His integrity and His immutability. People don't have integrity or immutability. God's love is based on His character and not on who we are or what we do. Furthermore, God's love is not emotional; it is not based on circumstances; it doesn't fluctuate, it is always the same. It is only by understanding God's love and what he has provided for us that we can, in turn, have real stability and happiness in life and quit having that frantic search to be loved and to be treated the way we think we ought to be treated.
- When we respond to the doctrinal principle that God loves us in a perfect way that never changes, and that God loves us the way we ought to be loved, then we will be able to move into spiritual maturity and begin to have a measure of emotional stability, and begin to learn what it means to share the happiness of Jesus Christ. The result of that is that it changes the way we relate to other people.
When we are grounded in the perfect love of God then we are able to handle the disappointments, the fluctuations in life. Therefore we are able to genuinely love other people because there is a character built in us that is the character of Christ. That is evidenced by how we treat other believers, and this is the point in 1 John 4:20 NASB "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." We learn to love God on the basis of doctrine. That transforms our souls, and only then are we able to love the brother whom we have seen.
1 John 4:21 NASB "And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also." So love for God is going to be manifested in a love for other believers. Why? Because just as God has undiminished love for other believers, just as He loves other believers who are failures, just as He loves them despite all of their sins and flaws, we understand that if God loves them we should love them also because the love is not dependent on who people are or what they do but is based on the immutable character of God and His integrity. Only as we grow and advance in the spiritual life and have that integrity begin to shape our own character are we then going to be able to demonstrate this kind of love. So we have top learn to love God and respond to His love in reciprocity before we can learn to have impersonal love for other believers.
This wraps up John's emphasis on love for God and love for one another which has been a major theme because it is the evidence of spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is necessary in order to not be ashamed at the judgment seat of Christ, and it is one of the greatest evidences that the believer is abiding in Christ.