The apostle John has a unique writing style. You can see it in his Gospel, but really feel its beautiful rhythm in his epistles. It has a repetitive, circular pattern to it that helps drive his point home. Look at this passage in 1 John:
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. (1 John 4:7-12 NLT)
The point is simple: We ought to be like God.
No, we shouldn’t be little gods, but our characteristics ought to be the same characteristics that God possesses. For instance, we ought to love the seemingly unloveable. We ought to forgive the seemingly unforgivable. We ought to be willing to reach out and touch the seemingly untouchable, and more.
I write “seemingly” because we were seemingly that way once, too. As Christ-followers, we ought to exhibit the same traits and characteristics as our God and His Son, Jesus. After all, Ephesians 5:1 says, “Be imitators of God…”.
But look at the passage from 1 John again. He says a five-letter word that I also repeat five times after John’s passage. It’s the word, “ought.”
If you look up the word “ought” in the dictionary, here’s what you find as the first definition:
1 – used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when viewing one’s actions or behavior.
It would be easy to use “ought” in this manner in John’s passage. After all, God loved us before we even knew Him. Jesus died for us while we were sinners. It is now our duty to repay Him with our love and devotion, right? Well… hang on. Let’s look at the next definition:
2 – indicating what is probable, desirable, or to be expected.
This, I believe, is what John is getting at. If we have been truly impacted by God’s love… by His sacrifice at The Cross for us… by Him loving us before we had any clue… then our lives OUGHT to exhibit His love to a world which so desperately needs it. If my heart has been changed by His love, then love coming from me is “probable, desirable, or to be expected.”
It is not out of duty or obligation that you or I express love – for God Himself or for others. It is a natural out-flowing of our inward condition and transformation.
It was John who said in his Gospel:
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you SHOULD love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”(John 13:34-35, NLT, my emphasis)
(If you look up the word “should”, it has the same definition as “ought.”)
It SHOULD just happen. It really ought to.