“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8
You’ve heard this verse. You’ve read these words. You may even have them displayed somewhere in your home, if you’re like me. For years I’ve read this verse, I’ve highlighted it, I’ve believed it. But I’m pretty certain I’ve never truly understood it. I’ve never realized all that God was condensing about Himself and about love. It wasn’t until I backed up, read the entire context, took my “Bible blinders” off, and truly dug into the Word, that I began gathering some understanding of the true meaning of these words.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we love God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No on has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whomever they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us the command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 4:7-21
1. Love is sacrifice.
God sent His son to the world for the sole purpose of being betrayed (Matthew 26:75), falsely accused (John 19), rejected (Luke 23), abused (Matthew 27), and humiliated (Luke 23:48-49). Jesus’s entire earthly existence was an act of pure love. To live a perfect life, free of any sin, free of any wrongdoing whatsoever, and yet die a death as if he had committed every sin of the world is the greatest sacrifice the world has ever seen, and will ever see. Without knowing Jesus, we do not know that kind of sacrifice. We do not know that kind of love. We get outrageously angered at being accused of even saying something that we didn’t say. Think how Jesus felt hanging on the cross. He had every power to remove himself from the cross. Just months before, he had driven demons out of people, healed the dying, given movement to a paralyzed man, raised a boy and a girl from death, and fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. He very well could have jumped right down from that cross and given the ultimate BYE FELICIA.
But we know the rest of the story and we know He didn’t. The nails aren’t what held him to the cross–love is. Love kept him on the rugged cross to die for every sin of the world. Think of the burden we feel from just one sin before we repent; Jesus felt every single burden of eternity–he was fully human and felt all human feelings. What great, powerful love.
So, with all that being said, if we are to strive to love like Jesus loved (even though that’s obviously impossible in its entirety), we must love with sacrifice. The world tells us to love who makes us happy. The world tells us to love those who don’t bring us down. The world tells us to choose carefully who we love. But Jesus tells us that’s all a bunch of self-gratifyng bunk. If Jesus only loved who made him happy, loved who didn’t bring him down, and chose carefully, we would all be extraordinarily doomed. Praise Jesus for the sacrifice, His Grace that gave us what we didn’t deserve, and His mercy that didn’t give us what we did deserve.
2. Love is a chance for the world to see God.
“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 4:12
While no one in the world has ever seen God, they have seen His Son, who is Him (cue mind blowing up), and they have seen Him through Jesus’s acts of love. Jesus’s time on earth gave the world insight into who God is and a chance to physically see His abundant love.
“This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.”
When Jesus died, conquered the grave, then rose to Heaven, he left us with the Holy Spirit so that we may carry on the responsibility the he had on earth. We are now responsible for displaying the love that is God. Without God living in us, His love is incomplete. Our acceptance of Jesus, and our acceptance of the Holy Spirit fulfills His love. Spreading such love is what leads others to the same fulfillment. Not only is it God’s commandment for us to love; it’s our honor.
3. Love isn’t deserved.
“But they definitely don’t deserve my love.”
We’ve heard it. We’ve said it, or at least thought it.
The harsh truth is we don’t deserve God’s love. We’ve betrayed him over and over again. We’ve turned our backs on him and ignored all that He’s spoken to us. We’ve consciously gone against what He’s asked of us. But He still love us. Because despite what the world tries to teach of us about love, it cannot be earned. Love isn’t given as a reward; it’s given selflessly and graciously. We love out of obedience and an outpouring of the fulness we’ve achieved in Him, not out of our personal feelings. When we love out of our personal feelings, that’s when we run into a lot of mess and trouble. Which brings me to my next point…
4. Love is freedom from fear.
When we love as God loves us, we are free from the fear of betrayal and broken-heartedness. If we love selflessly, and not because of what we want to get out of whom we are loving, betrayal will feel like less of a personal offense. We’re still going to be hurt. We’re human. But God will drive out the hurt when we fully trust in Him and love the unlovable, so we truly have nothing to fear.
In no way did God say loving people as He loved would be easy.
“The LORD said to me, ‘Go show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”
God commanded Hosea to relentlessly pursue his wife who repeatedly betrayed Him. God commanded Hosea to display the same kind of love that He displayed to the whole world. He didn’t tell Hosea that it would be easy, but He assured him that he would be there with Him every step of the way.
Until we grasp, believe, and understand these aspects of God’s love, we can’t begin to give it. To love how God has commanded us to is to allow our spirits to overflow the pure and perfect love that He has for us. So let’s fill our hearts through His Word, marvel in His beautiful and gracious love, and let it explode all over everyone we encounter.