Whenever we use the word ‘love’, it is described as either an intense feeling of deep affection, a fleeting emotion of care, or an extreme feeling of attachment. However, as I studied the gospel of John [and his other writing] I realised love is more than simply a “warm feeling”; it is an attitude that reveals itself in action.
So when we say “God is Love”, how do we define it? I think of John 3:16 – For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God wanted us to know that His love was unconditional, so He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us while we were still sinners. We didn’t have to make any promises to God before we could experience His love. His love for us has always existed, and because of that, He did all the giving and sacrificing long before we were even aware that we needed His love.
From John 16:33, we understand the very nature of God’s love is different from human love. His love is..
- Unconditional – it’s not based on feelings or emotions. He doesn’t love us because we’re lovable or because we make Him feel good; He loves us because He is love.
- Sacrificial – God sacrificed His own Son to restore a loving relationship. He gave the most precious thing in the universe to us because He loves us.
- Steadfast [unchanging] – God never ceases to love us. Even when we sin and fail to love him, God does not cease to love us.
- Infinite – God’s love is greater than we can even imagine. Throughout our Christian walk, we will continue to see and experience new aspects of His love.
- Perfect – Because God is perfectly righteous, he will never do anything wrong or unjust to us.
The list is endless when describing the characteristics of God’s love. The verse sets out the meaning of true love [and the basis of all love relationships] – when you love someone, you are willing to freely give to the point of self-sacrifice. God is the very definition of self-sacrificial love and what it truly means.
So, back to “God is love”. [as mentioned in 1 John 4:16 – We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them]. We can see that love is not merely an attribute of God, it is part of his very makeup. God is not merely loving; at his core, he is love. God alone loves in the completeness and perfection of love. Love comes from God. He is its source.
Once we understand and experience His love, we are able to show love to others. In 1John 4:19, we’re told ‘we love each other because he loved us first’. It is the effectual love of God that first changes our hearts in order to make us capable of love, and it is His example of love that reminds us again and again of our need to love other people. God loves us, so we must love one another.