We love because...

Valentine's Day: We love because... (1 John 4:19)
Is it fair to say that people have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day? Some people fully embrace it and go all out, some people are kind of meh about it, some people take pride in scorning it, it sends some into a deep sadness about the relationship status they wish they had. The experience at our house is a little different, because it’s also my husband’s birthday. He is still scarred from his elementary school years, where he felt his birthday treats were lost and overlooked in a sea of candy hearts and chocolates. (And don’t call him Cupid Boy. Just don’t.) So we’ve always tried to make it more about his birthday than that “other holiday.”
Whatever your take on it, it does bring our minds back to love, and it can be an opportunity for making gestures that show love to those special ones in our lives. As we were talking about what might be great Etch offerings for Valentine’s Day gifts, my mind focused in on one verse that Etch co-owner and designer Kelsey had hand-lettered for a print…1 John 4:19. It says, "We love because He first loved us.”
I feel like I’ve heard this verse a lot at weddings. But do you ever hear an isolated verse you’ve heard many times before and think, “wait, what does that actually mean, though?” What was the Apostle John talking about when he chose to share this thought in this letter recorded in 1 John? If you’re like me and you've heard this verse at a wedding (or in a Valentine’s Day-related blog post!), you may automatically relate it to romantic love. But it’s actually nestled into a passage about each of us as followers of Christ loving one another. As you zoom out from that one verse, you see that there is something quite striking about the number of times John tells us in the book of 1 John alone to “love one another” or “love our brothers and sisters." It’s almost like he really, really wants us to remember it! And you don’t have to look too far these days to find evidence that the struggle to love one another well is still very real. So what can we learn about this broader view of love?
In chapter 4 verse 7, which starts this section on love (I’m using the CSB translation), John says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God…” A few verses later, in verses 11-12, he says, “Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is made complete in us.” Verse 21 reiterates, “And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.” I love The Message paraphrase’s rendering of verse 21 too: “The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.” 
Rewinding a little to chapter 2 verses 9-11, John writes, “The one who says he is in the light but hates his brother or sister is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother or sister remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother or sister is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and doesn’t know where he’s going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” Read through chapter 3, and you'll find several more exhortations about loving your brother and sister. 
John obviously felt this was one of the most important things he needed to share with the Christ followers to whom he was writing (and guess what, that includes us!) We can get a clue into why that might be if we flip back toward the beginning of the New Testament to John’s Gospel, where he records some of Jesus’s words while He walked the earth. In chapter 13 verses 34-35, Jesus told his closest friends and followers (which included John), “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 
Um, excuse me, Jesus? *hand raised* Loving one another is really hard. We don’t always agree with one another. We don’t always think we should do things the same way. Even within the Church body, we don’t always trust each other. Sometimes, we can’t even imagine how our brother or sister can say they love You and still believe (insert controversial viewpoint here). Sometimes, honestly, we’re just all really difficult. And yet, this is the plan to let the world know we are your followers? By how we love one another? Gulp. How are we supposed to do that again?
Look back to 1 John 4:19. We love, because He first loved us. John knew we had both a perfect example of how to love each other and the power to do so. That example came from Jesus himself. He set it for us throughout His entire life recorded in scripture. In John 15:9, He says, “As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in my love.” Everything the disciples saw from Jesus and recorded in their Gospels and letters shares that example with us. But God knew also that “how-to” knowledge wouldn’t be enough for us. So He also gives us the power to love each other by His Holy Spirit that dwells in every believer. And John, who himself so identified with Jesus’s love for him that he referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” knew from experience that having been fully known and loved by God gave us the power to love others. 
Another great encouragement to me in the journey of loving others according to Jesus’s example is the fact that Jesus himself prayed for us about it. I love this passage of scripture for a lot of reasons, but listen to Jesus’s prayer for all believers:
“I pray not only for these {the disciples}, but also for those who believe in me through their word. May they all be one as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me."
So on this Valentine’s Day, let’s love our significant others and our families well, but let’s not stop there. Let’s love one another. Each other. We can, because He first loved us. We may be tempted to think we need more to be able to do that well, but the apostle Jesus loved tells us that, in his experience, being filled with His love is all we need. 


Nicole Swanson serves EtchLife as a Community Coordinator, helping us connect via email and our blog. She also coordinates our EtchLife Affiliate Team. She's married to Craig and has two fast-growing kids.

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