1 John 4:7-21 is a remarkable section of scripture in that in its 14 verses the apostle John uses the word “love” 12 times. Nowhere else will we find such a rich discussion of the word that so perfectly expresses the heart and soul of God’s redemptive involvement in our world. Let’s listen as God speaks to us through his first century mouthpiece, the “beloved disciple” John.
Believers are to love one another because love is from God (v. 7). Since love has its origin in God it follows that all who belong to him should reflect this essential characteristic. Those who fail to show this quality obviously do not know God (v. 8) because God is love. It is simply impossible to have a personal relationship to the One who is love and not reflect it in one’s daily life. We know that God is love because he revealed this attribute by sending his only Son into our world (v. 9) so we could have eternal life. Real love is not defined by our love for God but by his love for us (v. 10). Christ entered our world and died for our sins, thus giving us the ultimate definition of what it means to love. Love has an obligation: since God loved us to that degree we are to express that same kind of other-centered concern (read “love”) for our brothers and sisters in the faith (v. 11).
While no one has ever seen God, it is true that in our love for one another we experience His presence (v. 12). We have experienced God’s love for us and know that as we continue a life of love we are in union with Him (16). As we live out our life of love it will reach its final goal on the day of judgment, and on that day we will have the confidence that love supplies (v. 17). Perfect love rules out fear, and if a person does fear it reveals that love has not yet reached its goal in that life (v. 18). We can love, that is true, but what makes it possible is God’s prior love for us (v. 18). So let us love because God is the One who loves us (v. 19). However, keep in mind that if you say you love God but hate your fellow believer you are a liar (v. 20). If you can’t love your brother whom you have seen how could you ever love God whom you have not seen? We have been given a commandment and that is that if we love God must also love our fellow Christian (v. 21).
And there you have a complete presentation of the origin, the power, and the result of genuine love. God is love. We know what love truly is as we learn more and more about God. And central to that is the fact that love is as verb. It is something God did. He came in the person of Christ and died for our sins. His love is the motivating factor as well as the source of power that leads us to love not only God, but our fellow believers for whom he made the ultimate sacrifice. Say it with me, “God is love!”