“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.”
1 John 4:12
THE OPT-IN PRINCIPLE
When I was a teenager, I remember hearing many messages about love being a choice that we make and an action that we take. My youth pastors were constantly preaching that love is not the fleeting feeling that most people associate it with but that it is actually the opposite—an intentional, active choice to love the people in our world regardless of how we are feeling and in spite of their flaws. The important principle we were being taught as young people was the significance of the opt-in with our relationships. Just like those persistent pop-up windows on websites that give us the option to opt-in to receive their latest newsletter or daily deal, whatever we opt-in to determines the messaging we receive. In fact, the actual definition of an opt-in is: the option to receive a message.
Generally when we opt-in to be a part of an email database we often get sent more than what we signed up for—because when we choose to opt-in, we choose to also receive the broader messages related to that company or organization. Similarly, John is teaching in this verse that it is not that God loved us so in turn we should only love Him, but instead that God loved us so in turn we love Him and His people too. It’s the ultimate opt-in. By opting-in to God we also choose to opt-in to love one another every day. As a result of this, God sends us a message of His love, shown through His people.
Here in this verse John flips the script on the context of love. The verse says that "no one has ever seen God," but this isn't a random comment about whether we can see God visibly but rather about how God is known. God is known in the flesh as Jesus, and people experienced love through Jesus in person. But since Jesus is not walking the earth today, God is also seen when we choose to love each other. The manifestation of our love for each other is God's perfect gift to us, fully present in our lives.
Mutual Christian love reveals the presence of God. This type of love makes the movements of God visible and tangible. God loves us so much that He left us with this incredible gift so that we could experience Him every day. In fact, when John writes that “His love is perfected in us”, he means that when God’s love flows through us and we share it with others, it reaches its intended design.
God and love can't be separated because God is, in fact, Love. If you're feeling far from God or unloved, know that His presence is actively with you. He is with you at your next coffee meeting, supporting you in an act of sacrifice for a friend and walking alongside you every day through your choice to opt-in to love the people in your community. When we accept God's love, we activate His presence in our world and we never have to feel alone. He is with you this Christmas season and always, and He's given you the best gift ever: genuine love and family.