Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we 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.
—I John 4:7-11
God so loved the world that He acted out of His love. He sent His Son to die for the world so whoever believed in Him could be saved (John 3:16). If we believe in the atonement of Jesus for our sins, we have received the compassionate love of God. When we love others in deed and in truth, we know that we have received God’s agape love (1 John 3:18-19). Our actions toward others will match the agape love God has for us.
There are many characteristics of God, but the real nature of God is love. God is “agape” love. Agape means “wide open, especially with surprise or wonder” (www.languages.oup.com). God’s love is wide open for us. It surprises us because we know we don’t deserve it. It amazes us because there is no work we must do in order to receive it. We only have to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior. The Gospel sounds almost too good to be true. But it is true. While we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8).
Love isn’t only a feeling. It’s an action. And love isn’t just an action. Love is a person. God expressed His love toward us by giving His Beloved Son as complete payment for our sins so we could partake in His life. When we receive the agape love of God, it calls for our response. God’s kind of love is expressed in our actions toward others.
Loving others is conditional on us knowing God. If we have a poor relationship with someone else, it indicates that our relationship with the Lord is also poor. And when our relationship with the Lord is poor, we love others out of our selfishness. Our human love isn’t the agape love of God. God’s kind of love seeks the welfare of others even if there is no feeling of love toward them. Everyone who acts in God’s love must be born of God and know Him because God’s love only comes from Him. Every other kind of love is just a cut-rate imitation.
Our love for God isn’t the greatest example of love because we don’t have a reason not to love God. He has been incredibly unselfish in His love toward us. God’s love for us is the greatest example of love. We haven’t done anything to deserve it. On the contrary, we have done many things that deserve God’s judgment.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
God in His love for us revealed His true nature.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (I John 4:11).
When you receive Christ as your Savior, you are part of God’s Beloved (Ephesians 1:4-6). You have received the love of God. If God loved you when you didn’t deserve it, then you should love others who don’t deserve your love.
You have received the forgiveness and unconditional love of God you didn’t deserve. So “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).