Love Is From God
One of the greatest memories I have of Valentine’s Day is from my time in seminary when my friends and I helped each other focus on the love of God. We were in an accountability group together and all single at the time. Far different from the romantic cards, chocolates, jewelry, and flowers being promoted by the stores for gifts, we gave each other the reminder that God loves us.
In 1 John 4:7-21 the apostle John focuses the minds of believers on the truth that God is love. Significantly, John does not call his readers to “love one another” without telling them from where this love comes, “for love is from God” (1 John 4:7). Only those who have been born again spiritually and know God in an intimate, affectionate way, can extend true love to others.
The greatest expression of God’s love came in the incarnation. God loved us so much that He sent His only Son into the world to live a life of perfect obedience on our behalf and to satisfy God’s wrath on the cross. In light of His great love for us, we should love others. In fact, since God is invisible, we have the responsibility and the privilege to reflect His love to those around us. As He “abides in us” and “his love is perfected in us” we display His love to those around us (1 John 4:12).
The Spirit of God assures our hearts that we abide in God and He abides in us. Since our blind eyes have been opened by God’s grace to know the truth, we should be witnesses, teaching the gospel of Christ to those around us and confessing “that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 4:15). God’s abiding in the believer is transformational. He is perfecting His love in us and will bring it to full completion when we are glorified. As we look toward “the day of judgment” believers can be confident that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (1 John 4:17). We are God’s children forever, secured by the blood of His Son.
John reminds us that “we love because [God] first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God’s transforming grace makes it impossible for the believer to hate other believers. John argues that if we can’t love those we can see, we certainly won’t love the God we can’t see. This truth should sober us. How often do we find it easier to say we love God instead of the person whose idiosyncrasies annoy us, bad days splash on us, sins betray us, sufferings inconvenience us, and service demands time from us?
When we love God, we have an affection for Him, we profess our faith in Him, and we obey Him, especially His command, “whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:21; see also John 13:34). None of these three aspects of abiding in God (warmth, words, and walk) can be separated from the others. Therefore, we must always examine ourselves and see if our head, heart and hands align.
Dear believer, let John’s words breathe life into your weary soul. In a sex-crazed society, God shows forth love supremely in His Son. He shows us what love is by being love. No longer do we have to guess or romanticize love. God is love and He has loved us. In a self-centered society, God transforms love from selfishness to selflessness. Where many churches sound the call to love without doctrine and obedience, John sounds the call for love, obedience and doctrine. When we think it easier to love God than to love our neighbor, beginning with our own family members, John reminds us that to love God means to love those around us.
I have another favorite memory of Valentine’s Day. It was the day my husband proposed to me. He planned a scavenger hunt around the church where I worked. He took a dozen roses and spread them out over twelve different places. Each time I found one of the roses, it had a clue attached to find the next one. Many of the clues pointed out God’s love for me, as well as his love for me.
As much as I felt my future husband sing over me that day with all of his thoughtful words and work, it paled in comparison to the heavenly bridegroom that sings over His bride with perfect love: “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zeph. 3:17). With God’s love igniting our hearts, “let us love one another, for love is from God” (1 John 4:7).
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.