See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 1 John 3:1 NASB
For this reason – Did you notice that John claims the world doesn’t know us because we have experienced the love of the Father? Does this call into question most of what we have been taught about God’s love? Have you heard the usual claim that once God’s love takes over in your life, the world will see it and want to know more? Doesn’t John imply just the opposite? How do we make sense of this backwards statement?
It seems to me that we must first recognize what John says is true – regardless of our theological platitudes. When God’s great love saturates our lives, we become unexplainable oddities in the world. We just don’t fit anymore. We act against expectations. We think in different ways. We stand outside the paradigm and are outlaws to the world’s economy. It is God’s love that makes us strange – so strange that we often appear insanely fanatical and are written off because of this. Yeshua said much the same thing when he warned his followers not to expect any sympathy from the world. In fact, the world is our enemy.
And that is precisely the basis for our insanity. Because we love our enemies.
Adin Steinsaltz says, “Love begins when this caring is not only an objective appraisal, but becomes a personal attachment, when the object is not just ‘a thing’ or ‘a person’ that is judged by itself, but when one becomes involved in the relationship.” And relationships require involvement and time – lots of time. “Love is something that people have to learn,” says Steinsaltz. He notes that any relationship that provides gainful benefit to the subject (the one loving) is not selfless love. Such love, common to most of our involvements, actually functions as a means for enhancing our own image. If we love because we recognize the other as loveable, doesn’t that mean that we gain something of personal value from the arrangement? Steinsaltz remarks, “What matters is the relationship, not the benefits derived from it. My beloved exists, and therefore all is well.”
My observation is that most people love in order to be loved. It is the mutual equation of gratification that matters. But this certainly isn’t true of God. God loves – and in His relationship with the creation, all is right with the world. God loves us – and it is the relationship that matters, nothing more or less.
Perhaps we have missed the point entirely. Perhaps our attempts to love our enemies are not based in the joy of their very existence but rather in our desire to “bring them into the fold.” The transparency of our exchange equation causes them to recognize that we do not love them because they are, but rather for what we wish them to be. Can you imagine if God determined to love on such a basis?
The world does not know us when we love others simply for the joy of their existence. Such love defeats all exchange value and reflects the face of the Creator. But until this love is hidden in our hearts, we are recognized for what we really are – religiously converted exchange takers.
Topical Index: love, relationship, 1 John 3:1, for this reason, hidden