Focal Passage: I John 4:7-12
Dr. Daniel Akin tells of a group of children ages 4-8 who were asked “What does love mean?” According to kids, “Love is … when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your french fries without making them give you any of theirs.” Or, “when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day.” Maybe the best is, “you really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it; but if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” I find it sad that in the English language we use the same word to describe our feelings for our God as we do for our favorite food, sports teams, or movie.
Love is a word man has been trying to define for centuries. However, I John 4, along with I Corinthians 13, gives us God’s definition of the word “love.”
God’s Word gives us a clear and concise definition of love. It is summed up in just one word … God! Verse 8 boldly declares this definition: “… for God is love.” We also know this reality from another familiar verse of Scripture, “For God so loved the world that He gave … .” Love did not have its beginning in the minds of men, but rather, in the demonstration of God! In that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Love is full atonement made obvious on the cross of Calvary. That is love on display and life experienced!
Now, we have our concepts of love, mostly related to the physical. But the true essence of love goes to the heart. In our society we throw the word “love” around so casually, and relationships begin through physical attraction of people saying they love each other, having not investigated whether or not the other person knows the source of love! These verses tell us that if an individual has not experienced the genuine love of God through a relationship with His Son Jesus Christ, then they do not know and cannot know love. So, don’t believe someone who says “I love you,” if they don’t love Jesus, because love is impossible without Him.
A young lady in my church had been dating a young man. After spending time with her family, he noticed that every time the young lady said goodbye to her parents, they would always say, “I love you.” The young man was confused and not sure what to think about that, because, as it was soon revealed, he did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As the young lady’s mother said to me, “He didn’t understand all this love stuff.” As one writer has said, “Until someone has embraced the love of God in Christ Jesus, he or she hasn’t fully understood the extent of love.”
The fact of God’s love for us carries with it a command for those who know this love. Verse 11 carries an “ought,” literally, a moral obligation. You and I are commanded to love one another.
There are believers with whom you may have a personality conflict. You may not like them, and vice versa. You may not care for their actions, and they may get on your first, middle and last nerve, but the believer in Christ Jesus who has experienced His love is commanded to love his or her fellow Christian.
Jesus says it best, “By this all will know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” — not by the size of our building, or the attendance in worship, or the many programs that are conducted. No, they will know we are His by our love, for God is Love!
— Nelson is pastor of Russellville Baptist Church, Russellville.