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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN



Comedian Rodney Dangerfield, using his trademark phrase, once said, "I tell ya, I get no respect from anyone. I bought a cemetery plot. The guy said, "There goes the neighborhood.' " Somebody in the church may y have been saying something similar about other Christians near the end of the first century. Why else would the apostle John have used so much ink urging Christians to love each other? In 1' John 4:940 he reminds readers that the love of God for mankind was demonstrated in a dramatic, stunning, and tangible way through both the Incarnation and the crucifixion. Jesus entered the world in flesh so that He could leave it via a cross and be a propitiation for our sins. John is stunned that God could love us like that, but he is equally amazed that some people who claim to be born of God and to know and love God (that is, Christians) are not loving other Christians. That one can be a Christian and not be loving is inconceivable to John. With characteristic bluntness he asserts in 1John 4:8, "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." John defines Christians as people who couldn't care more in a world that couldn't care less. The truth is that while you can love and not be a Christian, you could never be a Christian and not love. Some might say John is unloving in saying that, but he is clear. You can sit on a church pew with regularity, be dogmatic about doctrine, and bellow about the necessity of baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins. But if you refuse to love, you don't have a relationship with God. And then this incredible statement in 1' John 4:12 "No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us." Amazing! Just because God is invisible does not mean He is inaccessible. As Christians we bring Him near when we "love one another."

John 1:18 presents the incarnation of Jesus as a visible manifestation of the invisible God. Jesus has "declared" or made God known to us. When Christ came in the flesh the invisible God truly came near. So near, in fact, that Matthew 1:23, in describing the circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ, quotes Isaiah 7:14 and calls Jesus "Immanuel" which is translated "God with us." But 1' John 4:12 presents another shocking truth love between Christians is also a visible manifestation of the invisible God! When Christians truly love each other, the invisible God becomes accessible. So accessible that John affirms, If we love one another, God abides in us. . . .we abide in Him and He in us" (1 John 4:12-13). People who get closer to God just can't help getting closer to each other.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ