“And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
The apostle John referred to himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23). Jesus had taught John and the other apostles about the importance of their loving one another (John 13:34-35). However, early in his following of Jesus, John did not always practice love towards others such as when he wanted to call fire down heaven to consume the Samaritans for not receiving Jesus (Luke 9:54). No wonder Jesus referred to John and his brother James as “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). However, by the time John writes his first epistle he had grown very much in the practice of loving others. As the opening passage above shows, John places much importance of our abiding in love (1 John 4:16). Observing John’s growth in love encourages me as I know I need to grow in love.
How do we show God that we love Him? Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). The apostle John echoes these words as he writes, “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:5-6). One of the ways we show our love for God is by keeping His commandments.
Love is central to the core of Who God is. In fact, John simply states, “…God is love” (1 John 4:8). God did not just “say” He loved us, He “showed” He loved us. How? By the giving of His Son for our sins (cf. John 3:16). John writes, “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” (1 John 4:9-10). Our motive for loving God is to be because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Another way we show our love for God is by loving our brethren. John writes, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us” (1 John 4:11-12). Our love for God whom we cannot observe with our eyes is shown in part by loving our brethren whom we can: “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).
What is the benefit of growing in loving one another over our lifetimes? John tells us: “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:17-18). Those who practice love have no need to fear on the Day of Judgment as they stand before God to give an account of how they have lived on this earth (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10). In fact, they can have boldness of that day!
I acknowledge that, like John, I know I need to continue to grow in loving God and others. I rejoice that God is love. I love Him because He first loved me. I do not want to be full of fear on the Day of Judgment. I want to have boldness on that day. Today, I will strive to abide in God’s love!
“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” (1 John 4:7-8).