I remember when we moved to Joplin in 1995 and hooked into our first internet provider. It was dial-up. Remember dial-up? But once the connection was made, the world was at my fingertips. It didn’t matter that it took a while to open a page, a little bit at a time - unless there was a photo; then it took minutes - not seconds - to load.
We soon found out about hackers, and that scared us. We didn’t want them accessing our computers and getting into our information. But when we heard that the whole computer world would reset at midnight on January 1, 2000, some of us couldn’t imagine what was to come. You see, somehow, our computers were not programmed to go from 1999 to 2000. The world’s computers - government, scientific, medical, personal, and otherwise - were going to suddenly have their clocks reset to 1900 instead of 2000. That’s right: our computers would deliver the entire world back to 1900! The computers controlling our gas pumps would start spewing out oats and hay. The cash registers at the store would suddenly start selling candy bars for pennies and nickels, and our retailers would have to eat the profits. The computers at TV stations would go back to delivering news about hurricane flooding in Galveston killing thousands. William McKinley would be re-inaugurated as president. There would be no microwaves. Our cars would stop. The entire economy would certainly crash. From what we heard, the entire world would be plunged into a very difficult life. Like most news of this sort, the Y2K crash turned out to be nothing.
At some point, with all of our computers connected to the same internet, we learned about viruses. Viruses could also be transmitted through floppy disks.
There was one virus that you have to be impressed with. This particular virus attacked more computers than others, and there was huge cost to repair the damage. The Lloyds of London insurance group estimated that more than 10 percent of all computers in the world were infected by this single virus. You might say there was a virtual pandemic. The name of this virus: the I Love You virus. It remains one of the top ten computer viruses to this day.
It didn’t matter that you installed antivirus software on your computer: the I Love You virus worked around that software in a manner that was simply genius. Coming on the heels of the Y2K scare, this worm first appeared in China (No comment!) in the early spring of 2000 and spread quickly around the world in just days.
It wasn’t too complicated. In fact, it wasn’t spread much differently than others. These viruses masqueraded as emails from a trusted friend in your contact list. It would just sit there in your email box and wait for you to double click to open it. Opening it would release the program to overwrite the files on your computer. Then it would copy your contact list and send itself to everyone you know, listing you as the sender.
So if it worked in the same way as other viruses, why is it at the top of the list and others not? Three little words - I love you - some of the most powerful words in the world. Put those words in the subject line, send an email to your coworker, and see how fast you get a response! What family member wouldn’t want to click to read such a tender and heartfelt sentiment - I love you. It didn’t matter that they were warned in the news; many opened it anyway, because we can’t stand missing out on a love note.
Maybe you remember the first time you heard those words in a significant relationship. Maybe you recall the feelings it stirred - the way your heart skipped a beat, the tingling in your fingers, the uncontrollable smile on your face. Something powerful occurs when those words are directed toward you. And when the words are backed up by actions, that energy is electric. Our lives are to be lives of love, and we should never hesitate to say I love you to the people we love and then make it count with our actions.
God tells us throughout the Bible that He loves us. He constantly demonstrates that love. Throughout the Old Testament, in spite of needing to establish His authority and repeatedly demonstrate His discipline, God protects His people. In the Old Testament, God gives His people methods by which they can have their sins pushed forward to a promised Messiah.
In the New Testament church, we look to a time when God backed up His promises through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He further reinforces His love by establishing the church on Pentecost. Throughout time, the Holy Spirit has inspired the writing of Scripture as a love note to His church. Our lives are lived, whether we realize it or not, in an atmosphere filled with God’s love.
I am intrigued by John referring to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. He doesn’t mean that Jesus thought more of him than His other followers; he is simply in awe that the Savior could possibly love him. There is great humility in his self-identification as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. He writes the book of 1 John for a couple reasons - to expose false teaching and to reassure believers of their salvation through Christ. Listen to this: our salvation and our love for other human beings go hand in hand. Read with me from 1 John 4:7f: “Beloved, let’s love one another; for love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
With that verse in mind, think about the person you thought about earlier - that person you find it hard to love. Maybe it’s a coworker, a student, or a relative. Maybe it’s somebody that everybody else seems to have no problem with but you still find it difficult to deal with him or her. It could be a celebrity (Maybe you’re just tired of seeing Taylor Swift at the Chiefs games.). It could be a politician (It could be an entire political party.). For our purposes, maybe it would be better to keep things more personal. Do you have that person in mind? Now, let’s insert that person’s name in 1 John 4:7f: “Beloved, let’s love one another; for love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love _____ does not know God, because God is love.”
How does that verse hit you now? Now it slices deep within each of us in a new way. You see, loving others must mean that we try to see them more like God sees them.
It’s tough to read verse 8 in that way, with that person’s name inserted. Loving God seems easier than loving others. In fact, sometimes even the people we love the most in life can be difficult to love. But the best news I have for you tonight is that God understands. In some ways, we’re really not different from God.
How hard is it for Him to give grace to Adam and Eve when they mess up? How hard is it for Him to banish, and not just kill, Cain after he commits the first murder against his brother Abel. How much restraint does it take for God to not just do away with the entire human race when He destroys the earth with a flood - especially knowing that Noah’s descendants will still go on to sin another day? How much does it take for our God to spare anybody who had been exposed to life in Sodom? Abraham has to wheel and deal with God to get Him to restrain His wrath. How hard is it for our God to send His Son to live and suffer death for all people in the world of debauchery that we live in today? I think it’s safe to say that God understands what it’s like for us when we think about a person in our lives who is hard to love.
He knows it can be a challenge for us - and that’s why He gives us verses 9f: “By this the love of God was revealed in us, that God has sent His only Son into the world so that we may live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
I know that God sees differently. Remember when Samuel looks for a king to replace Saul, and he says to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Like Samuel, we look at people differently than God does…but is it possible for us to try to see through God’s lens? Would it be all right to ask God for the wisdom to see people as He sees them? Should we try to see more than what we do? Can we possibly recognize their gifts, talents, passions, and strengths? Shouldn’t we look beyond their stature and their personalities and try to see their potential instead?
Dare we say that loving others is a test of our relationship with God? Author Anne Lamott wrote, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” Instead of that, we read the next few verses (1 John 4:11-14): “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we remain in Him and He in us, because He has given to us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.”
There is a lot more to say on the subject, but for now let’s read the rest of the chapter (1 John 4:15ff; I’m going to emphasize some of these words as I read: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, we also are in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear [Remember verse 17: “love is perfected in us”.], because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and yet he hates his brother or sister, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother and sister whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.”
Now, we have some work to do in order to live up to that standard. Read 1 John 4 over and over, this week. Meditate on the words. Parse them carefully and get the message from the “disciple whom Jesus loved”.