Love is the most important subject in all the Bible. It is this quality that best defines God. Without understanding – no, without possessing love – we don’t know God at all. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8).
Have you ever heard someone mock a preacher for speaking often on the subject of love? I have! “All so and so talks about is that l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ve stuff!” It is as though some people think the subject of love is not all that important and to teach on love is a waste of time. That is not at all true.
Perhaps it is because of the perception many have that love is a feeling or an emotion that indicates softness or weakness that they fail to understand the fundamental nature of love. To love would mean that one is not strong or manly. To others who are bent toward legalism to emphasize love is to be against the law of God. Never mind that Jesus said that the first and second greatest commandments were to love God and one’s neighbor.
Actually, to not love is to show one’s self to be less than human. Think about it! We human beings were created to be in the image of God, and, as the apostle John said twice in the same chapter of 1 John, “God is love.” If God is most completely or perfectly defined by the quality of love, then it follows that to be in the image of God means that love be the defining quality for human beings. The person who loves like God loves us is most like God. One who loves like God is most like God and is therefore most human.
So, how do we know the love of God? We could, of course, look at the whole story of God’s dealings with man from the creation in Genesis 1 through to the end of it all when we receive the inheritance He has prepared for us. It all is a story of love. It is the greatest love story ever told.
Man being created in the image of God was an act of love. Man and woman being created for each other was to enable us to comprehend the joy and ecstasy of love – and the responsibilities that come with loving. God’s pursuit of man as he transgressed against His will serves as another illustration.
But the greatest demonstration of love is seen in the Son of God coming into the world to save the world. The unthinkable, unspeakable, incomprehensible act when God became flesh – a man – in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to experience what we experience as human beings. He suffered temptation at the beginning of His ministry, rejection by the leaders of the people and was forsaken by His followers at the time of greatest trial. He was tried by the brutal, godless Romans at the instigation of the people who should have known and welcomed him him. He was convicted unjustly and cruelly crucified. And all of it was because “God so loved the world…” It all was in order to redeem fallen man and to restore us and all creation to its originally intended perfection. Now that is love!
But what does all that mean to us? It means that love is the only way we can ever understand or become what we were intended by our Creator to be. As the apostle John said…
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:9-12).
It is in loving that we know God. The reason for this is that until we have experienced God’s love first hand we cannot comprehend its dimensions and thereby understand the greatness of God. We begin to understand the love of God when we are confronted with it in the realization that we have sinned against God by failing to live up to the potential he put within us. We have fallen short of the glory of God, the very thing He intended us to manifest in and through our lives. That realization brings us to shame and sorrow and causes us to turn to God. When we see the depth of His love for us as we behold Jesus on the cross we become broken in spirit we offer ourselves on the altar of His love.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17).
Knowing the love of God prompts certain responses in us.
First it causes us to love God.
“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19).
That love then assures that we will respond in appropriate ways to His love. Jesus said…
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15).
Love then extends outward toward others.
Love gives us assurance of our relationship with God.
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.” (1 John 4:16-17).
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35).
So if anyone tries to tell you that there is something more important than love – and there are plenty of people who do that – tell them they don’t know what they are talking about.
“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Love is the “royal law” – the law of the King.
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. (James 2:8).
It is the law that sums up what all other law is about.
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10).
Co-authored with Bill Van Dyke, Ph.D, Give Me Liberty: Restoring the Spirit of Jubilee examines the mission of Christ as viewed from the fulfillment of Jubilee and how legalism robs the church community of the joy Jubilee brings.
A Better Way is an exploration and critique of the traditional method of determining Bible authority and suggestions for a better approach to understanding the Bible.