We love him, because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 KJV
Years ago, I discovered that the New American Standard Bible (NASB) translated this verse differently than my trusty King James Version. It reads, "We love, because he first loved us". If I hadn't been so familiar with the wording of the KJV, or hadn't learned the verse as a Sunday School song, I may not have noticed the missing word. For me, it stuck out like a sore thumb. At first I wondered why the NASB (also the NIV) left it out. Then it hit me that maybe the KJV translators added it in - and that's what they did.
Now, don't misunderstand me here, the verse in the KJV makes a true statement and the context can support such a claim, but John did not write this particular sentence as translated by King James' scholars, not even in the Greek. This might be a minor technicality for some, but because of how it fit into my overall viewpoint it was a huge difference. You see, the way his sentence fits within the whole is not meant to highlight the truth that we love HIM, but it highlights the miraculous change that has caused us to actually LOVE. Confused? Don't worry, you'll get used to it! :)
My perception of this verse fit nicely with the popular Christian motivation that told me I should do for God because He has done so much for me. Of course it was all supposed to be out of thankfulness, but gratitude turned into plain indebtedness after a while and "serving the Lord" became "the least I should do". My teachers helped me to read the verse this way: "Because He loved me first, it is now up to me to love Him back."
Stop for a moment and just read it:
We LOVE, because He first loved us 1 John 4:19
Take it in and savor the life of which it speaks because it is the REASON we love, not the motivation by which we talk ourselves into doing it.
The reality is that ...
everyone who loves is born of God and knows God 1 John 4:7
The misunderstanding among those to whom John wrote this letter was simple in that they began taking heed to the claims of the religious who merely had words and yet obviously had no life. These were those who boasted of their great love for God while actually hating those they called "brother". John stated clearly,
the one who loves God should love his brother also 1 John 4:21
John's point? Don't be fooled by words, listen with the heart, because...
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him
1 John 5:1
In other words, our love for God and for one another has been embedded in our hearts and we will eventually discover that we can't help it when it peeks through. Confidence in His love can turn that peek into a flood.
WE LOVE. We love God, and we love that which is born of God ... because HE initiated that love.