We live in a world that is in desperate need of love. Not just any love, but the love of God that brings joy and peace to every human heart it touches. Love that is sourced in God. Love that is defined by selfless devotion. Love that transforms those that are touched by it.
This is what the Apostle John said about Love in 1 John 4:7-12. “Beloved, let us love one another, 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. 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
This command to love one another is not new. It is a command that Jesus gave his disciples many years before John wrote these words. Jesus said in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Our Lord has called His people into a new way of thinking and living. We are commanded to love as Jesus has loved us.
Jesus is our way of knowing God’s love. This knowing is not just cognitive, but experiential. Those that have accepted the free gift of grace that God offers in Jesus Christ have experienced God’s transforming love! “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23). We have His amazing gift of grace; the gift of eternal life. Life that was bought by His own blood and is freely given to all those who trust in His name. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). So amazing is this gift of grace that Jesus takes all of our badness and puts it on himself (substitutionary atonement), and takes all of His goodness and puts it on us (imputed righteousness), making us perfect before God.
Therefore, here we stand, Christian friend; perfect and blameless before God, because Jesus has made us so! So where does this leave us? One would hope forever changed, transformed by the radical, selfless, and sacrificial love of God.
This command to love is not a command to do, but to be. GOD IS LOVE! Love is not something God does, it is who He is. If one wants to know what love is, they look to God, and more specifically, to the Son Jesus Christ. And upon believing in His act of love we are transformed. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
Therefore, God is not commanding us to “do” love, but to “be” love. If God abides in us and we abide in Him, then His nature should be coming out of us. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35). But all of this is connected to our abiding in Christ.
So how do we abide and thus be transformed into love? It’s less complicated than we tend to make it. We must be wholly devoted to Jesus and His kingdom and not consumed by the cares of this fallen age. Paul lays it out in Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Paul is saying that by God’s mercy we are able to live as living sacrifices, devoted to God, and that through this undivided devotion, we are transformed in our very being.
God’s love that has been so clearly and powerfully revealed to us in Jesus Christ is Gospel love. This is the truth that governs our lives as Christians. The truth is that God became flesh and died for us, rose from the dead defeating Satan, Sin, and Death. He is alive and well, reigning and ruling over all creation, and everyone who hopes in His name has eternal life! Therefore, to be love, we must make the Gospel our aim.
God’s love is not focused on the temporal cares of this world such as our physical lives and the American dream. God’s love is focused on our eternal destiny and the very real hope of Heaven. God’s love is Gospel love. It is both actions and words that promote the Gospel message. This is why Paul was always focused on the Gospel and never failed to proclaim it. Because, “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16). Don’t get me wrong; God cares about our lives and promises to meet our needs, but Gospel love is eternal, not temporal. Our greatest need is to have peace with God and that is exactly what Jesus came to do. (Romans 5:1).
So may I be so bold as to call us into this abiding love? That we would not allow ourselves to be caught up and consumed by the cares of this world, but be transformed by the transforming love of God? A love that heals instead of hurts? A love the restores instead of destroys? A love the empowers instead of enables?
Many people are hurting in our world today and are in desperate need of God’s healing. We can bring that healing through our words and actions. We can do selfless acts of love that bless others with no strings attached. We can be mindful of the words we say, especially before we post or hit send! We should also be looking for ways to interject the healing and hopeful message of the love of God in the truth of the Gospel. We need to bring people to the only One who can truly heal! “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4). This is the healing hope of the Gospel.
There is so much division in our country and in the church. All of the events of the last 12 months have been extremely divisive. We can bring restoration to the church and our country through the loving message of the Gospel. The Gospel brings supernatural unity. It has done this from day one. One of Jesus’s disciples was a political extremists who committed acts of terrorism against Rome (Simon the Zealot). Another of his disciples was a tax collector for Rome (Matthew the Tax Collector). The Gospel brought them together, unified in ultimate truth instead of being divided over temporal concerns.
The world tells us that we have the power within ourselves to change the world, but this is only true if you have Jesus in you! The world tells us that we are basically good in our natural state and makes excuses for our bad behavior to explain it away, and when fallen humanity wants to pretend like something isn’t bad, they just legalize it. The love of the Gospel empowers us to be the very person we desire to be; the kind of person who puts others before themselves. One who is quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry (James 1:19). One who speaks words of encouragement grounded in the truth of the Gospel. Words that draw broken and hurting people to the only one who can transform them to be who they desperately want to be. Let us be the love of God that truly changes the world, one life at a time!
"We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)