"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." - 1 John 4:7-11
Last night in youth group, we opened up the night with a quick activity. One student was blindfolded, one was not. I had drawn a pretty simple picture of a house that they had 60 seconds to replicate on their side of the whiteboard. I showed them both the photo - and yes, the one student was blindfolded when I showed them this photo - and started the time. The student not blindfolded could look at the photo the whole time. The only thing I shared was that it was a picture of a house they were drawing, but no details beyond that.
The result is above. Blindfolded on the left, not blindfolded on the right, and photo reference in the middle.
According to what John wrote in 1 John 4 (quoted above), God gave us the "photo reference" for love when He sent Jesus to redeem us. He painted the picture of what love looks like, what it really is, with the blood of Christ. In fact, John would write that "God IS love" Himself; He's the perfect embodiment of all that love is supposed to be, and He exemplified that part of His character through the cross.
If we do not know God, then, we do not know love. We have no photo reference. All we can do is live giving it a blind shot based on what we think it is; based on how we've experienced what others think or say or show it is. If we're lucky you'll be able to tell what it is supposed to be, much like the photo on the left. You can pretty much make out that it's supposed to be a house, but it certainly doesn't resemble the reference photo.
The picture on the right, while still not perfect, you can tell that they were aiming to replicate the reference. It is similar enough that there's evidence of that. If we know God, and have come to place our faith in what He did through Jesus on the cross, we have taken the blindfold off.
We'll never love as perfectly, or as deeply, as God loves. But, our lives should show that we're working off a reference; that we know the God who is love.
How's your drawing looking these days?