Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.1 John 4:7-12, 15-16
Here John teaches us about love. This is what we learn:
- God is love.
- Love comes from God.
- Loving others is a sign that we know God.
- God showed His love for us by sending His Son Jesus, that we might live through Him.
- Our love for God is a response to His love for us. He loved us first.
- Out of response to God’s love for us, we should love one another.
- God’s definition of love is this: Jesus came and died for us.
- The fullness of love is displayed in Jesus’s death and resurrection. Without this at the center, love becomes defined by our own preferences and selfishness.
- It is our acknowledgment that Jesus is the Son of God that allows God to come and live in us and allows us to live in God’s love.
- Our identity is rooted in God’s love for us (not our performance for Him).
What is clear from this passage is that there is no separation between God’s love and Jesus. We can’t somehow abstractly talk about the fact that “God is love” without also mentioning that “Jesus is Lord” and that Jesus is the “Son of God.” All of this is intricately woven together. Any attempts to separate talk of God’s love from talk of Jesus immediately depart from the biblical definition of love.
There is also this tendency, especially in progressive circles, to remove “God is love” from the context of this whole passage. Likewise, there is a tendency to remove “God is love” from the other New Testament descriptions of God. For example:
- God is love (1 John 4:8, 16)
- God is holy (1 Peter 1:16; Psalm 99:5,9; Rev 4:8)
- God is light (1 John 1:15; John 1:4-5)
- God is good (Mark 10:18; Psalm 34:8)
- God is faithful (1 Cor 10:13; 2 Thess 3:3)
- God is just (1 John 1:9; Hebrews 6:10; Isaiah 61:8)
This list could continue but I think we get the point. In God, these attributes never conflict. Does God bring love to the unloved? Yes. He also brings holiness to the impure parts of our lives. He brings light to the darkness of our lives. He brings goodness to the evil parts of our lives. He is faithful when we are unfaithful (2 Timothy 2:13). He brings justice to the injustices of our lives.
If we want God to love us but we don’t want His holiness, goodness, and light to purify us, then we want some of God but not all of God. It is partial surrender. It is half-hearted faith. He absolutely loves us. God is love. And He loves us enough to want us to get free from our sinful lifestyles that damage our soul. God is holy. God is light. God is just. God is love.