If we really want to understand love, and our longing for love we need to go to the source of love.
In 1 John 4v7-12 love is sprinkled all over these verses like confetti at a wedding. It begins (7)“Dear friends”, literally ‘beloved’, or ‘dearly loved one’, which is how he describes them again in v11 – just stop and bathe in that for a minute. These battle worn, limping Christians, unsure and uncertain are dearly loved – John isn’t exasperated with them, he’s moved with compassion for them, so is God. They’re loved not despaired of. Isn’t that an encouragement? Even in our struggles, even in our questions and doubts, God loves his children.
Some of us come with our failures, with our questions, with our doubts, and God says we are his dearly loved ones. Church ought to be a place that embraces those with questions, those limping, those with doubts as dearly loved ones just as John does here.
And the word love appears a further 13 times in these 6 verses. But what is this love? He calls them to love on another but what does that mean? How can we know what love is?
(7-8)“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Do you see where John starts with his definition of love? How we know what love is? Love comes from God. God is love. The love in these verses is the love God has for his Son and his people and the love that his children have for God and for one another. It’s a love that is unique to disciples, a love that only those who are born again can know and show. The world does love, but it cannot love like this! It’s a love the world cannot understand.
It’s a love that we can only understand as we look up. “God is love”. God has always been love. God the Father has always loved and delighted in God the Son and God the Spirit. God the Son has always loved and delighted in the Spirit and the Father. And the Spirit has always loved and delighted in the Father and the Son. Love is at the very core of who God. At the core of everything God does. There has never been and never will be a time when God is not love.
It’s love that leads God to create, not a bare functional world but a world overflowing with beauty and creativity and joy, so his creation can share in his joy and love and delight. It’s love that marks out God’s rule and reign; every law given because of love, every command an expression of love. That’s a helpful thing to remember when we come to read God’s law – how is this revealing God’s love? It’s love that marks God’s calling and his jealousy and his justice, his judgement, his mercy and his grace. God is love – not a soppy sentimental, let you get away with anything, love – but pure, blazing, holy, perfect, purposeful, love.
Don’t settle for pale imitations. Don’t settle for second best. See real love.
And (9-10)God shows us his love once for all as the Father “sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Love compels the Father to act, to send the Son. Love compels the Son to come not to some cushy safe secure planet. But to enter his sin scarred creation. Marked by centuries of rebellion and rejection of God, marred by sin, twisted and damaged and torn. And into that world the Son of God comes, walking on the same splintered shards of broken creation that we do, feeling even more than we do it’s pain and suffering because he knew its purity, potential and purpose, how far it had fallen.
God doesn’t love us at a distance, but up close and personal. He’s not safe and secure, he isn’t socially distanced, masked and vaccinated. Jesus doesn’t wear emotional and spiritual PPE. He walks where we walk yet without sin. And yet (10)he becomes the sin offering on the cross, the perfect spotless sacrifice against whom our sins are counted, who bears our punishment, our shame, our guilt, because he loves. So that we might live through him(9), so that we might know God and have eternal life at his expense, because of his love.
Do you see what love is? That’s what love looks like.
Love incarnate in Jesus Christ says I will give up my rights and privileges for you. I’ll leave home for you. I’ll love you even if it costs me everything that’s mine, even if it kills me. Even if it costs me an undeserved agony of body and soul that you could never imagine, I will love you. If it drives nails into my hands and feet and pierces my head and side, I will love you. If it leaves me gasping for breath and screaming in agony of body and spirit, I will love you. If it means I bear God’s wrath for your sin, I will love you.
Do you see what love is? And God does it all while we were still his enemies. Whilst we were stood in the crowd baying crucify.
It’s not a comfortable love but a covenantal love. It’s a love that keeps its promises at any cost. It’s not a love deserved or earned but freely given. It is not a love we draw out from God because of something in us, but it’s all of him.
Do you see this morning how you are loved? How will you respond to such love?
We all search for love. Maybe you’ve been searching for it your whole life? Do you know why you search so hard for it? Why, when we think we’ve found it, we find it slipping through our fingers? Because this is the love we’re really looking for, this is the love we’re made to enjoy, God’s love. This is love that sees us as we are and welcomes us. This is love that forgives and cleanses and washes away shame and guilt. This is love that will die for us. Love we don’t have to earn, be worthy of, or attract. But love freely given. Perhaps this morning you realise you want to be loved like this? We’d love to help you explore how, why not get in touch; speak to someone you know from the church, ask someone to help you understand Jesus love.
Maybe you’ve heard enough as you’ve been coming along. And you want to put your trust in Jesus. You believe he’s the Son of God and the saviour of sinners. You recognise your sin and your need and you want to know his love and be God’s child. You know following Jesus won’t be easy, that there are battles to fight, sins to rip out, costs, but you want to be his disciple. Why not pray this morning, confess your sin and ask him to save you and be your Lord? And then tell someone.
Some of us are here this morning and our love for Jesus has grown cold. Other things have crept like weeds into the garden of our hearts and choked our love for Jesus almost without our knowing it. God invites us again this morning to see his love, to hear his call to us “dearly loved one.” To dwell in him. To bask in his loving welcome. To thank him. To praise him.
Others of us know God loves us but we still struggle to rid ourselves of our shame and guilt. We feel unlovely and unlovable, weighed down by our sin or the sins of others or both. God says look up and see. Look at Calvary and see. I loved you enough to send my son, he’s the atoning sacrifice, there’s no more to pay. We need to see the once for all nature of his demonstration of his love. It is not found in our circumstances but at the cross.
And that one of a kind love transforms.