In one of her best-known songs, Tina Turner asks the question, “What’s love got to do with it?” While the context she sang of was a passionate romantic relationship, Christians may very well ask, “What’s love got to do with it?” in regards to the affections and actions of the Christian life. The simple answer is love has everything to do with the Christian life. Throughout the letter of 1 John three markers make their appearance time and time again. One of those three markers is love. We have seen John command Christians to love one another (2:7–11; 3:11–18) and remind believers it is because of God’s love any of us can be called children of God (3:1). Case in point, love is a central component to the Christian life. The Apostle Paul says elsewhere, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). The problem we face with this is we live in a time where the word love is a catch word. It has different definitions for different people stemming from different sources. To some, love means to accept the person and their way of life no matter what and to say any aspect of their life is wrong is unloving. For Christians, we must look to the Word of God to clarify what we mean by love and what we see as the source of love. The Apostle John could not be any clearer: “for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (4:7–8). The source of our love is God Himself. God is love. Notice, though, the text does not say love is God. It is necessary to bring this up because 1 John 4:8 is a verse used to heighten the aspect of God’s love to the exclusion of other parts of His character. The truth is just as God is love (4:8) He is light (1:5). God’s love is a holy-love. Because God is love, those who are born again by Him and know Him are ones who love too. Along with the source, the display of love is explained: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (4:9–10). This biblical display reveals love deals with our sins. God is holy and God is loving. Because God is holy, He must punish sin. Because God is loving, He sent Jesus Christ to take on our sin. Another way to say it is the gospel tells us judgment will be brought upon sinners and those who remain in their sin will face the wrath of God. However, for those who repent of their sins and turn to Christ, they find the love of God. In God’s love He sent Jesus Christ to die the death we deserved. To be a propitiation for our sins means Christ, like a sponge absorbs water, absorbed the wrath of God on the cross so that we may be saved (4:10). With the sacrificial death of Christ, the judgment of God was satisfied and for all who trust in Jesus Christ, they will live in Him and through Him (4:9). Those who were spiritual dead in their sins can be made alive in God because of the person and work of Jesus Christ. One of the primary ways we live through Christ is by loving Him and loving one another. Truly, our basis for loving one another is an overflow of our love for God which is empowered by God’s love for us. We don’t love others because they deserved it. We did not deserve the love of God. We love one another to display the gospel before each other. This is love.
- Why is it important to identify the source of and define the word love?
- How does understanding the love of God impact how we love one another?