TODAY’S READING: MALACHI
“‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord.” – Malachi 1:2
Malachi means messenger or angel of the Lord. The first words of the oracle, or message, God speaks through this messenger are, “I have loved you.” The rest of Malachi reveals how Israel was serving the Lord in a cold, lifeless way without love.
Israel asks God, “How have you loved us?” It is a question many still ask God today. What Malachi heard as God’s answer to this question – “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother? Yet I have loved Jacob and hated Esau” – seems to me a rather spiritually immature understanding of love. Essentially, the answer is God loves me because he hates someone else.
But, Jesus revealed that this was not God’s way at all. He doesn’t have to hate someone else to love. God says to everyone, without exception, “I have loved you.” Therefore, God expects the same of us. He expects we love everyone – friend or enemy.
1 John 4:7-21 says, “Beloved, let us love another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have 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. No one has ever seen God if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
Twice in this passage John writes that “God is love.” Also, he says, “We love because he first loved us.” This is the message of Malachi’s first words, “I have loved you.” We know this is true because God sent his son, Jesus, to die for our sins. As Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
Because we know that God gave us his Son and will therefore graciously give us all things, we can go on to love our brother and our enemy without fear. According to 1 John 4, loving our brother, even our enemy, is the sign that we truly know God’s love and have received it within us. When we love this way, the way that Jesus loved us, we know that God abides in us.
However, as we see with Israel, when God’s love is not known, religious expression continues without life, without love. Ritual becomes routine.
Therefore, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
Anything we do without God’s love as the motivations is worthless just as read in Malachi.
Here’s what I love about the passages in 1 John 4 and 1 Corinthians 13. God first loved us. He has loved us. From the very start, God has loved us. And, God’s love for us never ends. God’s love for us will never stop.
To know that God has loved you in the past, loves you know in the present, and will love you forever into the future is, without doubt, the greatest thing that anyone could ever know.