Imperfect Love–1 John 4:11-12

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. –1 John 4:11-12

In my office at home are many books. I’m a bit of a book junkie. Among my many books is a smallish collection of nicer, more valuable volumes. No, there’s nothing worth breaking into my house and stealing, but there are some items that mean something to me. Most notably, I have a small collection of T.S. Eliot first editions. Someday, when the kids are done with college and the mortgage is retired, I’ll fill my declining years by adding to that collection. I’ll be able to see a first edition of The Waste Land go up for auction on eBay and do something other than looking longingly at it. Frankly, in the grand scheme of collectibles, a $5,000 book isn’t all that outrageous, but given my current budget, it might as well be $5 million. Still, that goal gives me something to look toward, a project to complete. Someday, if I don’t get distracted by something shiny, I’ll see it happen.

Perhaps that’s what God has in mind for his love. His love, as John describes it in verse 12, will be made complete when we show love for one another. Maybe that’s what God is waiting for. It’s as if he had a checklist of baseball cards. Most of the boxes on the checklist are marked off, but he’s waiting for one or two hard-to-find items. Perhaps when you and I show love for others, then God’s collection will be complete.

Or perhaps not. That work translated as “made complete” in the NIV is rendered “made perfect” in other translations. The Greek word deals with things reaching their natural ending and purpose. God’s love is not incomplete regardless of how unloving the members of Christ’s church might be at any given time. It’s not incomplete, but it is not reaching its intended target, accomplishing its intended end. It’s rather like God’s love is a garden hose full of water. Our job is to direct that water onto the thirsty plants. We don’t add to or take away from the water, but we can get it where it needs to go.

How blessed are we that we get to serve as “nozzles” to God’s hose of blessing? It’s a poverty when we stand aside and allow that hose to remain unused by us while people are dry and needy. Let’s be clear. God’s love can travel many pathways, but I want it to be made complete in mine.