When people think of love, they may consider all the variety of relationships in the world, memories of romance and family time, recollections of kindness from strangers or the best of times with close friends. However, the ultimate connection to love comes from the Heavenly Father who first showed the world love before humanity understood what it meant. In thinking about God’s teachings on love, many believers might consider passages of scripture like 1 Corinthians 13, Song of Solomon, and John 3:16, but the apostle John writes a beautifully inspired explanation of love and the connection love has with God and humanity. John reveals by inspiration, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:7,8). People celebrate love in all manner of ways and times, but God provides the original design and path for love in all aspects: love of family, love of a spouse, love of friends, love of neighbours, love of brethren and countrymen, love of self, and most importantly the reciprocated love one gives to God. John concludes towards the end of his chapter, “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). How has God shown love to the world and what has this path of reconciling the world to His grace through His Son taught humanity about love?
John starts at the beginning by explaining, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). God’s Son was the most precious and value thing God could have given the world, and He gave His Son knowing that the world could never equally repay what He had given the lost in sin (1 John 4:10). Godly love exists selfless and sacrificial. Love is not about what others can give back, nor should actions of love be given expecting something in return, but real love is about giving all one has to give to those that need love, even if they don’t give back all that they have (Rom. 5:8).
John writes further of love stating, “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). One does not have to see God to know that He loves the world. Christians “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). God has given all the evidence and information one needs to know His love, if only people are willing to open their ears and hear Him (Rom. 10:17; Matt. 13:15). Love lives and thrives beyond the shallow surface of life and appearance; love is opening the heart and ears to who other people are, and not what popular culture believes they should be. A person can only genuinely love if he/she trusts and believes in another for who they really are (John 8:24; Heb. 11:6). True love does not force personal dictations on another.
John additionally explains, “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world” (1 John 4:14). To love God and to learn love, one must not only hear (vs. 12), and know God (vs. 13), but testify of God, which requires one to publicly confess (Rom. 10:9,10; Matt. 10:32,33). People in love do not hide what they know and feel, they proclaim it to the world. “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:15). God teaches humanity through the plan of redemption that love is bold and requires believers to be likeminded and change. John writes, “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world” (vs. 17). Love changes believers to followers (“as he is, so are we”); love changes how one thinks and how one lives as does redemption in Christ (Rom. 12:2; Acts 17:30). To love God and to love others is to turn away from past wrongs and turn to a path of selfless righteousness (2 Cor. 7:10).
Finally, to love God and to learn love is to cast out fear and torment. John elucidates, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). The same is represented in the plan of redemption through baptism, which represents the death, burial, resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:1-6). To be baptized into Christ is to put off fear and self-torment because God no longer remembers the failures of one’s past. Baptism is the washing of the past sins through the blood of Christ, a fresh start (Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5). To love is to open oneself to hearing (vs. 12), to belief (vs. 13), to confession (vs. 14,15), to repentance (vs. 17), and to putting off the old past of sin through baptism (vs. 18). God taught the world love through His plan of redemption in Christ! The manifestation of a godly love is obeying the gospel!