Summary: We often think of love as some syrupy, sweet, tingly, sentimental, ooey, gooey feeling. Biblical or divine love, however, is a self-sacrificing, caring commitment that shows itself in seeking the highest good for the one being loved.
According to the musical wisdom of John, Paul, George, and Ringo ... otherwise known as "The Beatles" to us older folks … “All you need is love, love … love is all you need.” Well … that and food … and shelter … and air … and sleep …
Love is literally in the air. You hear that word everywhere. It’s been the subject of plays and novels and poems, debated and discussed by philosophers and artists, intellectuals, and religious scholars throughout the ages. You can’t turn on the TV or a radio without hearing the word “love.”
And yet, there isn’t a more slippery word in the English language. And … in my opinion … more misused. We use it to describe how we feel about everything from pizza and ice cream to our families and friends … to God. We often think of love as some syrupy, sweet, tingly, sentimental, ooey, gooey feeling. The late author and cartoonist James Thurber once wrote: “My pet antipathy is the bright detergent voice of the average American singer, male or female, yelling or crooning in cheap yammer songs about love. Americans are brought up without being able to tell love from sex, lust, Snow White, or Ever After. We think of it as a push-button solution, or an instant cure for discontent and a sure road to happiness … whatever it is. It is,” says Thurber, “nothing of the kind.”
And the Apostle John would wholeheartedly agree. The Biblical definition of love is 1st Corinthians 13:4-8 and the Biblical demonstration of love is John 3:16. Biblical or divine love is a self-sacrificing, caring commitment that shows itself in seeking the highest good for the one being loved.
Biblical love is a self-sacrificing, caring, commitment that shows itself in seeking the highest good for the one being loved.
At its heart, Biblical love is a commitment. It is not a commitment without feeling but a caring commitment. Biblical love involves delight … not just duty. This caring commitment is not just an attitude but an action. It shows itself in deeds. These deeds often require self-sacrifice. The ultimate demonstration of that kind of self-sacrificing commitment and love was seen at the cross on Calvary. The goal of this kind of commitment is the highest good of the one being loved … and the highest good for any Christian is to be saved and to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.
In verse 7, John commands us to “love one another” and then gives us the reason for this command: “… because love is from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” Then the Apostle gives us the supreme example of the kind of love that comes from God: “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His only Son into the world so that we might live through Him” (1st John 4:9) “In this is love … not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1st John 4:10). He goes on to show how love for one another is evidence of God’s abiding in us and our abiding in Him in verses 12 through 16 … and then concludes this section of his letter by explaining that our love for one another is evidence that we are mature in our love for God.
“Love is from God.” Humm …. Love is from God. Even unbelievers may demonstrate sacrificial love for others. Unbelieving parents often sacrificially love their children. An unbelieving husband or wife may practice sacrificial love for their mates over the course of their marriage. Unbelieving soldiers may lay down their lives for their comrades. What they may not know … but John knows … and what John want us to know is that these loving deeds stem from God’s common grace … whether they know this or not. Whenever we see genuine Biblical love, it did not originate with that person. It came from God … whether an unbeliever acknowledges it or not or is aware of that fact. God is the ONLY source of love in the universe, amen?
Love is not only “from” God, says John. “God is love.” Every Christian embraces this concept, but it is often misunderstood and taken to unbiblical extremes. Some Christians misconstrue John’s notion that “God is love” to mean that God overlooks or tolerates sin. Some even go so far as to say that God … who is love … would never, could never condemn anyone to such a cruel and unimaginably horrible place as eternal hell.
But the Bible is very clear on this point. God’s love does not negate His holiness or His justice. Nor, conversely, does God’s holiness and justice negate His love. In Chapter 1, verse 5 John states: “… God is light, and in Him there is not darkness at all.” And he describes God as righteous in Chapter 2, verse 29. God’s holiness, God’s righteousness, God’s justice, and God’s love are all parts of God’s nature. No one part negates the other. While it is vital that we affirm and understand that God is love, we must also remember and affirm that God is holy … and that He is righteous and just.