1 John 4

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. – 1 John 4:7-21

The following reflection is found in Richard J. Foster’s, Devotional Classics.

If anyone deserves to stand beside St. John as an “apostle of love,” it has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard (1090-1153) was one of the great leaders in the history of the Church. He was an eloquent speaker and considered by many to be one of the holiest individuals who ever lived. He grew up in Dijon, France, and at the age of 22 entered as a novice in the monastery of Citeaux. A few years later, he was asked to lead a group of his fellow monks in the newly founded monastery at Clairvaux. Though he was offered high positions in the church, Bernard remained at Clairvaux until his death.

He wrote some 86 sermons on the Song of Solomon as an allegory of divine/human love. His beautiful hymn, “Jesus the Very Thought of Thee,” (song #225 in our Bayshore hymnal) reverberates with the language of divine love.

O hope of every contrite heart, O joy of all the meek;
To those who fall, how kind thou art! How good to those who seek!
But what to those who find? Ah, this No tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is None but His loved ones know.

How very appropriate of Bernard to remind us of the centrality of love. We so easily elevate other things to the place of first importance: our big budgets and impressive buildings, our dedicated service to the world, our doctrinal eccentricities. But Bernard cuts through all our ego-strutting activity and calls us again to love God in purity of heart, in sincerity of soul, in holiness of life.