Love is defined in a lot of ways in our American culture. There are a lot of uses for the word love: we love the beach, we love our family, we love God, we love certain types of music, we love cheeseburgers, we love the furniture in our home, and the list goes on and on.
Having so many uses for the word love makes it confusing at times. For instance, if you don’t love your furniture anymore, you decide to replace it. But that is not the way you treat your family and friends if your emotions change on how you feel about them on a certain day!
Throughout the Bible, we read about God’s eternal love for us. The Hebrew word chesed helps us to see that God’s love for us is steadfast, ongoing, persevering, unending. The Greek word agape teaches us that God’s love is unconditional. Through the person of Jesus we see that God’s love is full of compassion, selfless, serving, sacrificial, giving, pure, hopeful, and forgiving — the kinds of things that 1 Corinthians 13 describes.
In 1 John 3:11-24, we read about love and hate. We see that because of his sin against God, Cain gave in to hate, jealousy and rage, and ultimately murdered his brother Abel. Cain was led by the evil one, committed evil deeds, hated his righteous brother and then tragically murdered his brother. Cain’s hate-filled actions were condemned by God. Because he turned his back on God’s love, Cain ended up in a place that no one wants to be.
God’s love is an active love. He chooses to love us and then shows us his love in the way that he relates to us. His love for us is stronger than mere words or emotions. God’s love for us is love in action. And we should follow his example.
1 John 3:11-24
11 For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another, 12 unlike Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.
14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers and sisters. The one who does not love remains in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. 16 This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him — how does God’s love reside in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth.
19 This is how we will know that we belong to the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows all things. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts don’t condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive whatever we ask from him because we keep his commands and do what is pleasing in his sight. 23 Now this is his command: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps his commands remains in him, and he in him. And the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he has given us.
What does a portrait of love look like? Because we have gone from death to life (v14), we are led by the Spirit of God (v24). We know what love is because we see it in the person of Jesus (v16), especially in the way he laid down his life for others (v16). True love shares with those in need (v17) and seeks to always enrich the lives of others (v18). When we sacrificially, selflessly, and compassionately love people, this pleases God (vv19-23).
When we love someone, we care for them. We put their needs before ours. We encourage them. We take time for them. We help them. We share with them. We point them to Jesus and his love. Let us show our love by our actions. This pleases God. We cannot do this on our own, and the good news is we don’t have to do it alone. God will help us.
Here is a simple prayer: “God, thank you for your love for me. Help me to love others.” He will answer that prayer!