In this week's collect, we implore God to stir our hearts and enable us to serve him in response for the great mercies he has shown us in Christ Jesus. Today's Epistle reading (1 Jn 4.7-16) extends this idea to loving and serving each other. But St. John does not simply exhort us to love each other because it is nice, it is the right thing to do, or because of something lovable in them. He bases our love for one another on God's prior love for us, perfectly demonstrated in Christ's life and death for us.
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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4.10-11, NKJV)
Or in what may be more natural English for many:
This is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins. Dear friends, if this is the way God loved us, we must also love each other. (1 John 4.10-11, GW)
In other words, God's loving act of sending Christ on our behalf ought to be our motivation for loving each other. If we try to love others for any other reason, like those mentioned above, we will ultimately grow weary, disappointed, or disillusioned. It is hard to love people who are acting unlovable. It is difficult to try and force ourselves to do good to others only because it's the right thing to do. No, the motivation for our love cannot be found in us or in them, because together we are all sinful and ultimately unlovable. Our motivation for loving others must be found in God alone, where we find grace, mercy, and hope in spite of ourselves.
Stir up our hearts, O Lord...
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