Perhaps the most-recognized attribute of God is His love. And it is true. God is love (1 Jn. 5:16). God not only loves, but His very nature is love — His identity is love. His nature is love and He loves — He acts lovingly (1 Jn. 4:10). Further, all love emanates from Him (1 Jn. 4:7) — if there is a manifestation of love, it is in some way a reflection of His love. We have an ability to love because we have been loved by Him first (1 Jn. 4:19). And while God loves the world (Jn. 3:16), that love does not preclude Him from pouring out His wrath on those who reject and rebel against Him (Jn. 3:36).
This love from God is a great security for the believer. It is the means by which fear of God’s wrath and judgment is cast out (1 Jn. 4:18). There is hopefulness and confidence in this love. We are safe.
But there is an often-overlooked aspect of this love of God. When we are loved by God, it means that we also will and must love others. Love for others is the natural overflow of God’s love for us. That is one of John’s emphases in explaining God’s love — “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn. 4:11; see also v. 7).
But this is not just John’s idea. This is the consistent message of Scripture.
- The writer to the Hebrews told us to stimulate each other to love (Heb. 10:24-25).
- James called Jesus’ words the “royal law” and told us to fulfill that command (Js. 2:8).
- Peter called his readers to love in a variety of contexts (1 Pt. 1:22; 2:17; 4:8; 5:14).
- John had an entire book about love in the church body (1 John — see 2:5-6; 3:11, 14ff; 4:7-8, 11-13, 19-21).
- Paul perhaps proclaimed the message of loving one another more persistently than any other biblical writer (Rom. 13:8-10; 14:15; 1 Cor. 13:4ff; 1 Cor. 16:14; 2 Cor. 5:14ff; Gal. 5:13-14; Eph. 4:2, 15ff).
- And our Savior affirmed that this love for one another is the central means of testifying to the world of the love of God; our evangelistic testimony and influence is bound up in our loving care for one another (Jn. 13:34-35).
So loving one another is our priority. Whatever else we do, we are committed to caring for one another. Whatever happens in the church body, we are committed to loving one another and caring gently, graciously, and abundantly for one another. Whatever happens in the world and whatever oppression we face in the world and whatever influences we experience from the world, we are committed to love one another above all other things.
What does this love look like?
I will define love this way — Love is my privileged commitment to give what is good and gracious to you regardless of what it costs because Jesus loves me.
Our love for others is our commitment to each other. We are bound together and we are intentional in our care for each other.
We are committed to each other because it is our privilege. Love is our joy. We find satisfaction and delight in loving each other (even in confessing and forgiving sin with each other and being content and free from anger and anxiousness when others sin against us). We are emotionally invested in caring for each other. We don’t just say, “I love you,” but we love to love each other.
In loving each other, there will be sacrifice on our part. We will give. We will give not to get, but for the simple joy of giving to another’s need — what is good for the other and gracious for the other person. Love is not selfishly motivated. Love is sacrificial and liberal in its gifts.
Love further gives regardless of the cost. That means love is sacrificial and costly. It will place burdens on us. But we love to give so much because we have received so much from Christ. He has given infinite (irreplaceable) treasures to us; how will we withhold finite (replaceable) gifts to others?
So in illness, and in COVID and masks, and with differing political and social opinions, because of Christ, am I willing to love others affectionately and sacrificially in the body of Christ? Am I willing to sacrifice for others because Christ has sacrificed and given so much to me? (Or said another way, “whom am I unwilling to love the way Christ has loved me?”)
Christ has loved us. It is our joy to love others.