How can God possibly love us when we are, in the great scheme of things, apparently so insignificant? The psalmist wrote:
‘When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?’ (Ps.8:3-4)
In a Psalm of Asaph, the psalmist confesses:
‘But as for me, my feet almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked…pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. They scoff and speak with malice…’ (Ps.73:2-8)
Doesn’t that describe how we can feel, especially in the current climate of violence? How can there be a God who loves at all when we look at the state of the world? Why would he love us?
We learn today that God is not too great to be bothered with us, nor is our sin so revulsive as to make God finished with us, but so great and loving that he can and wants to be bothered with each of us individually.
Previously we have seen ourselves approach the throne room of God, impressed with who God is, what he has done, and what should be our response. We have marvelled at his detailed love and care for us and reflected on his love. Now we see the splendour of the king, seated on his throne and discover all this is because – God is love.
What is the difference between saying, ‘God loves,’ and ‘God is love?’
In the former there is an object of God’s love, something that evokes a love response, while in the latter love is his very nature.
What Motivates God’s Love?
God’s love is not a conditional love, dependent on attractiveness or worthiness. It cannot be earned, or deserved. It emanates from the perfect love that exists in the Godhead, between the members of the Trinity. God loves within his own being, it is his very nature to love. This is the love that comes from God (v7)
He is the source of love as he is of light (1:5) That is why, ‘Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God’ (v7)
This is a reference to those who have been born again into the love and new community of God, it is Christian love, not love as the world defines love. It is a quality of love the world doesn’t know but that defines us as Christians and is evidence of the new birth (v8a)
God’s Love in the Cross (vv 9-10)
God’s love is demonstrated most clearly in the Cross: ‘This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.’ (1 Jn.4:9)
The word used here for ‘showed’ in verse 9 is the same word used in 1:2 to say ‘The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it…” Both the incarnation and the atonement are demonstrations of God’s love.
It is important to recognise there is no reciprocation by God, ‘This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ (v10)
The initiative is entirely God’s!
He makes a conscious decision to love his enemies, armed to the teeth against him. We must realise that if God was not love we could have no expectation of mercy, forgiveness, no hope and no future. The gods of this world are capricious, unreliable, changing their minds on a whim, but the God of the Bible has a settled character shaped and defined by love.
The word ‘God’ appears ten times in this short passage to emphasise God’s initiative in salvation. The nature and strength of God’s perfect love is demonstrated in three ways:
- He sent his one and only Son (v9, cf Jn 3:16) – God acted first, seeking man (Gen.3:9)
- As an atoning sacrifice, to satisfy justice (v10 cf 2:2) – God acted sacrificially, satisfying justice (Ps.9:16)
- To die for our sins (v10) – God acted purposefully, saving all whoever believes (Jn.3:16)
God’s Love in Christians 11-12
God’s love requires a response, ‘Let us love one another.’ (vv7, 11) If God, ‘so loved us’ (vv11) so we should love. Realise, our love is not simply a reciprocal response, an expression of gratitude, although we are a grateful people, but so much more. As children of God now we grow to reflect his love and bear his image and character. Paul writes:
‘And hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.’ (Ro.5:5)
We love as God loves Because God’s Love is Poured into our Hearts
We are now a community of love because God’s love dwells in us. The love we have is a witness before the world. The love between Christians reveals the love of God, ‘No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.’ (v12, cf Jn 1:18) Just as Christ is Emmanuel, God with us, so the church is the manifestation of God in the world. It should give us pause to think about how we relate to each other. We must reflect his character in our relationships.
Francis Schaeffer described love as, ‘the ultimate apologetic.’ Jesus certainly seemed to think so (Jn.13;35) Love is the hallmark of the family of God. In his revelation John sees Christ among the churches (Rev.1:13-20) Christ in the church, the church in the world. This love is demonstrated practically, in acts of service and sacrifice (Jn.13:14-17) The church is God’s audiovisual presentation of life to a dying culture. Does the world see God in us?