Read John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16 together, and see how the first Scripture flows naturally into the next. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV). “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16, NIV).
God loved us so much that He gave His only Son for our good. Jesus suffered, died, and sacrificed all of himself because of such a great and amazing love. This is how we know what love is. He showed us. Jesus died for everyone‒not just a few. This sacrificial love is available so that each might know the grace‒the mercy‒the forgiveness of Jesus. His love is given and revealed through me. It is my responsibility to give my life for others. The need of their life should be greater than my own. I choose to love with His love, because He loved me so much with His. I choose for the verse “we love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19, NASB) to become my life's story.
God calls for the love of Christ in my life to be agape love–sacrificial and unconditional. It is nonjudgmental and positive. It speaks the healing power of the Holy Spirit into each heart without regard to who that person is or what they have done. It speaks the love and life of Jesus into hearts filled with negativism and doubt because of life's pain. The love of Jesus speaks life without regard to what a person feels about me, says about me, thinks about me, or does to me. The love of Jesus in my life forgives freely and without reservation. The only way that this kind of love can live in me is for my personal feelings and desires to be surrendered to the Savior who gave His life for me. It is only when I surrender my own “self” and “needs” to His will that the love which flows through me has its origin in Him, and not in me.
Agape love knows who and what God is, and realizes its cost. Because of its deliberate desire for the highest good of the one who is loved, it is shown in personal sacrifice for that person. That is what God did for us (John 3:16). That is what He wants us to do for others (1 John 3:16). “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5. NIV). His love was offered without any condition, and He calls for us to give it freely without the weight of condition or expectation. The Holy Spirit pours this love into my heart when I am surrendered to His purpose and not to my own.
Paul writes of agape love as the most important Christian virtue. “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NASB). When we love sacrificially and unconditionally with the love of Christ–no matter who someone might be or in spite of what they have done–we offer God's grace and forgiveness, so that someone else might also come to experience the healing love of Jesus. When love that is born of Jesus Christ is unmasked in my life, I am free to love. With no barriers or walls this love answers any question, accusation, or infliction with honesty, grace, and forgiveness. This love always sees the best in others. It rejoices in the truth, and hurts when another is wounded. The love of Christ in me has the power to help another person experience the Resurrection power that heals all facets of life. Jesus laid down His life for me. I am called to lay down my life for others. It is His calling, and it is my choice. There is no greater love.
-Lynn Hampton Lacher