13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
(1 John 4:13-16 NIV)
John continues his teaching on discernment, specifically about its practice in our daily lives.
Let’s spend a few minutes looking at a short little phrase that John used in yesterday’s passage, and it appears in today’s passage as well:
“God is love.” (verses 8 and 16)
With these three words, John recognizes God’s character and essence – love. Notice that John did not say “Love is God”, which would imply that love exists outside of God, and God just happens to have this attribute as well. If we think that love exists outside of and apart from God, then the Beatles were right – all you need is love. We don’t need God, we just need love.
If we say that love is all we need, that leads us to additional questions:
- Where does love come from (who created love)?
- Why is love in such seemingly short supply?
- Will the world eventually run out of love?
- If love is lost or rejected, can it ever be found or restored?
Thankfully, John does not say that love is God, but rather, that God is love. This means that God is the author and creator of love. Love is His essence and character. Only in Him can we find real, unconditional love. And there is no danger of God’s love being in short supply.
John tells us that we can depend on God’s love (v. 16) because of God’s demonstration of love toward us (vv. 14-15) through God sending His son Jesus to be the savior of the world. God demonstrated, through His actions, what it means to love.
And to think that God demonstrated His love toward us without any promise that we would love Him in return. Taking that thought a step further, God demonstrated His love toward us while we were His enemies, living in rebellion toward Him. And yet God loves us unselfishly and unconditionally.
Looking at the “bookends” of today’s passage (v. 13 and v. 16), we see that as followers of Jesus, God puts His Holy Spirit in us to enable us to love others as He loves us (v. 13). If we have any ability to love other people unconditionally, it is because God lives in us and His love flows through us to others (v. 16).
May we see God’s love as an action, expressed from His divine character and the essence of all God is and does. In response to God’s love, may we share His love with others who need hope, encouragement, and friendship.