The Lessons of Love
1 John 4:7-10
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God.…

If I mistake not, our first instinct is to suppose that to know God must be some result of hard thinking, something to be got by books, or something which is granted to intellectual power. Whatever truth there may be in this, there is no allusion to it all through Scripture which does not lead us to connect the thought of knowing God with the study, or the library, or the laboratory. It carries us into another region; it speaks of a knowledge which is open to the poor, the uneducated, the young. It speaks of a state of mind rather than of a degree of attainment; something which leads you to say and to feel as you see it in others, not "how wonderful!" but "how beautiful!" — not "how did he amass all those stores of learning?" but, "how did he become so noble and so like Christ?" He that loveth not, knoweth not God. Is that a hard saying to any of us? What, we ask, the mightiest intellect of modern times, rich with the spoils of time, does not that intellect know God? No, is the Divine answer, not if the man be selfish. It is one thing to know about God, to know what has been said of Him and written and thought of Him, and what science has revealed to us as to the modes of the operations of His hands. This is one thing; but to know God is another. To know God in any true sense is to be unselfish, to be loving, to have towards others the heart of a brother. He who gave us the intellect wishes us to use the intellect according to our age, our strength, our opportunities. Still all this knowledge is at the best knowledge about God not knowledge of God. Let us dare to look on yet further, and lift the wings of the soul. Are we speaking only of that which is, or of that also which shall be hereafter? Of what kind do you suppose will be that higher knowledge? Will it differ in kind from that which was learned often so painfully on earth? Will there be one measurement for the "pure in heart" who on earth have "seen God," and another for those who wake up after His likeness and see His face in heaven? Will the higher knowledge be more of the illumined intellect, and less of the adoring heart? If so, it would not be a higher knowledge in the spiritual order; it would be a lower, with more of earth in it and less of heaven. Everyone that loveth will still know God, and he that loveth not will still not know God. Or, if we pass beyond the region of glowing words, and think calmly of what we have seen and felt in our short passage through life, what report have we to bring on this high matter? When have we seemed to ourselves to be least ignorant of our God, or, may I dare say, understand Him best? Has it been when we were trying to spell out some hard passages in the Bible, or the Creed, or when we caught the echo of some far off thunder of controversy; or has it not rather been when our hearts were touched by something "lovely" or "of good report"; when we mourned unselfishly some common loss; when something so moved us at the very centre of our being that all distinctions of age, of ability, of position were merged and lost in one full tide of brotherly affection, and we seemed for a time almost surprised at the nearness and clearness of heaven? There are times, for example, in early childhood, when we have committed some fault. Conscience acts with sternness, and makes her terrors known, but soon love casts out fear; we cannot bear to have done wrong to a mother, or a sister; confession is a necessity; we must have human forgiveness, because, though as yet we know it not, it is to us the image and the representative of the Divine. Then in that weakness and majesty of childish love which resists sin and insists on pardon, we have the knowledge of God. Young as we are, we look on life with the eyes of love and hope. We long to succour, to reform, to purify, to save. But these eyes of love and hope are in truth the eyes of God. Or once more, that which has touched us has been the closing scene of life. We have gathered round some good man's grave. Who shall measure the teaching power of the great? What pulpit, what creed, what treatise on theology, can match for one moment with the open tomb in teaching the knowledge of God? And why? Because we then have ears to hear; because the heart is not closed, but open; because, if I may dare to say so, the spirit of Christian love is in the air. Our hearts recall the gifts and the graces of the Christian dead which made him the loved and honoured. Such lives, such characters, such memories are, indeed, teachers in the knowledge of God. Yes, if it be, indeed, the sober truth, if it be the real state of the case in the external world, that "everyone that loveth knoweth God," then our best, perhaps our only teachers in this high knowledge are those who have loving, unselfish hearts, and draw us, whether by the loving voice of an inexorable silence, to think of Him who in the language of heaven is love.

(H. M. Butler, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

WEB: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God.

Only Love Can Know Love
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