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God Is Love

God Is Love

What does it mean that God is love (1 John 4:8)? Here’s how John described it:

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 ESV

John’s passage teaches us three things about God’s love: love is God’s essence (v. 8), God’s love is sacrificial and self-giving (vv. 9–10), and God’s love is transforming — those who experience it want to give love to others (v. 11).

This definition of love diverges from our culture’s ideals. To love someone today can mean a range of things, including but not limited to endorsement, affirmation, unquestioning support, and attention. If you don’t affirm the choices someone makes — no matter how damaging or unwise — you’re deemed “unloving.” But how does this align with love as God defines it?

The love of Christ is self-giving and sacrificial. It’s also wise. God’s love is not in opposition to attributes like holiness and righteousness; it is complementary to them. In other words, these are not two poles on a globe, but two sides of the same coin.

  • You can’t have love without justice and truth, and you can’t have true justice without love.

When we as a modern culture moved ourselves away from God, we separated ourselves from both justice and love. Our justice is polluted by selfish opinions and lack of consideration for others; our love is diluted by the mistaken idea that affection equals endorsement. The Christian God upends these assumptions. His love will not be manipulated or separated from truth, and yet it is this truthful, faithful, hesed love (a “completely undeserved kindness and generosity”1) that chases us down and seeks us in our sin: “In Jesus, God has taken the initiative to seek out the sinner, to bring the lost into the blessing of Jis reign. He was, in short, the seeking God.”2

Jesus proved that God’s heart, holy as it is, is not to separate from the sinner but to invite the sinner to experience the Father’s love. Of course, humans may choose to reject that love, and by doing so they embrace separation. That choice has always been an option. But Jesus revealed God’s seeking, loving heart to humanity by entering into a relationship with people who needed the transformative love of God. This exposure to the Father’s heart changed them — and it changes us.

It changed me.

In the midst of my addiction to erotic fiction, I rode a pendulum between repentance and fear. I repented of my sin because I knew it was wrong. I was objectifying the people in these stories, objectifying myself, and objectifying my sexuality. I was filling my mind with the opposite of what is pure, noble, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). But my motivation for repentance wasn’t the love of God, at least not in those early years. My motivation was fear. I repented because I was afraid of God, afraid of sin, and afraid of what might happen if I lived there. In a way I think that was a healthy fear. Yes, we should recognize the consequences of sin and take them seriously. However, in Scripture such fear is always tempered by the open arms of God. But I didn’t see His arms as open; I saw them as crossed.

I believed this judging God saw my sin, and I felt shamefully exposed. At seventeen, a few years after I came to Christ and five years into the addiction, I read a book about God’s love. The sun rose, a switch flipped, and I understood why I continued to repeat the same patterns over and over. I did not trust God’s love. My repentance was genuine, but because I never felt truly attached to God, secure in His love for me and His grace over my sin, I returned to what felt safe: my sin. Of course, it wasn’t safe — it was damaging — but the familiarity deceived me. I was so unfamiliar with the affection of God that I ran to the very thing destroying my heart.

  • The love of God is the glue of Scripture. It’s the binding of the theological truths we study.

The Christian God is distinct because He is, in every part of His being, love. Love is Him. There is no love in this world that can exist apart from Him. Every human love is an echo of the original hesed, the faithful, seeking love, brave enough to redeem the darkest sinner you know — even if that sinner is you.

We have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him. — 1 John 4:16 ESV

We know God’s love. But do we believe it? Until we do, we can’t live in it. Abiding comes from believing. God’s love is real, and it is for you.

For God so loved the world [you][you] believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. — John 3:16

Eternal life is not just beyond death. It’s real life now. It’s real life free from addiction and dependency and anger and bitterness. It’s real life knowing and believing God’s love is for you, not just for everyone else.

  1. John Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 71.
  2. George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1993), 81.

Excerpted with permission from Every Woman a Theologian by Phylicia MasonHeimer, copyright W Publishing.

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Your Turn

Love is God’s nature, His quintessence. He’s Love through and through. His love is sacrificial, self-giving, and transformational. When we live in Him, we are changed from the inside out and His Love pours through us. Are you living in His Love today? Do you believe it? ~ Devotionals Daily