Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. – 1 John 4:7
The Bible here states that love is of God. In other words, love comes from God, originates in God. Love was His idea. But not so much an idea; it’s not like He came up with the idea one day. He is love and always has been. Love naturally flows out of Him because He embodies everything love is by His very nature.
John (who wrote this) is called the apostle of love. His account of Jesus (the Gospel of John) and his letters (First, Second, and Third John) speak often of the love of God. In fact, he refers to himself in his gospel as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved.’
John was one of Jesus’ closest disciples. He was one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, but he was also a member of the ‘inner three.’ Often times Jesus would take Peter, James, and John off somewhere and leave the rest of the twelve behind. These three were closer to Jesus than any of the others. And as a result of being so close to Jesus, John had great exposure to the love of God that emanated from Jesus. Therefore John spoke of it often and emphasized it a lot.
The importance of love in the Christian walk cannot be overstated. Of all the things that are important, love is the most important. Faith and Hope are important, but the Bible says that love is greater (1 Corinthians 13:13). For a child of God to miss it the area of love is to miss the whole point of it all.
Do you remember the most famous scripture of all time? The one that Tim Tebow painted under his eyes? John 3:16 is, no doubt, the most familiar scripture in all the world. And it is for good reason. It encapsulates the message of the Bible in one verse: God loves us and because of that love, He did something amazing to save us.
And the message of the Bible is not just that God loves us, but that we ought to love each other. Jesus said that the greatest commandment was that we should love God and the second greatest is that we should love one another. Love is so much the most important thing that it is often left out of much of our talk and our preaching because it is assumed. But that isn’t a good thing. It’s like a husband who assumes his wife knows of his love but doesn’t talk about it. You can ask any married woman what they would think about that. I can assure you that it would not make for a happy woman.
God’s love needs to be talked about. Too often it’s neglected. We should not take it is a gimme. It’s not practiced near enough or as it should be.
In our title verse, John states that the person who loves is born of God and knows God.
To be born of God is a reference to what Jesus spoke about in John chapter three. Jesus said that a man must be born again in order to enter into the kingdom of God. Being born again is the transformation that happens when a person gives their life to God. When a person is born again their heart is changed; it’s changed from a heart that loves sin to a heart that loves righteousness and all that is holy and good. It is also at that moment that the Holy Spirit comes to live inside the believer. Because of this heart change, and because of the Holy Spirit coming to live inside of us, we are enabled to operate in a supernatural love that we were not able to operate in before. John says that the person who loves is born of God. In other words, being born of God gives us the capacity to love as God loves.
Now, it’s important to understand the kind of love we are talking about. Love, in the English language, is used very loosely, and very often, when we speak of love, we are referring to the either the romantic kind of love or the friendship kind of love. But the God kind of love is different than these. As a matter of fact, in the Ancient Greek language (what the New Testament was originally written in), there were four different words for love. One (eros) meant the romantic type of love, another (phileo) referred to love between good friends, another (storge) referred to the love between family members, and the last (agape) refers to a love that cares for other people for no good worldly reason. In other words, this kind of love is selfless.
Jesus was asked to explain this kind of love once. He told a story of a Jewish man who fell among thieves while on a journey. The man was left half dead on the side of the road with no cell service. Two religious men came by that way but didn’t stop to help. But lucky for that man that a Good Samaritan was passing by. Now this Samaritan man had no good reason to help this Jewish man. Samaritans were despised by Jews. They were considered half-breeds and traitors. Jewish people in that day wouldn’t even speak with them, let alone help them in their time of need. Yet here is an interesting scenario: the Jewish man was in need of help and the Samaritan, who had every worldly reason to spit on him and leave, came to his rescue. This is the God kind of love.
Yet the God kind of love didn’t stop there. The Samaritan bandaged his wounds, put him on his donkey (which meant he had to walk), took him to town, and paid the estimated cost for his recovery. But not only that! He told the inn-keeper that WHATEVER the cost would be more, he would pay for it! Wow! Talk about going above and beyond!
That’s the God kind of love.
That Samaritan had no good reason to love that man, but he did anyway. Why? Because God loved that man. God loves people and we should love people because God loves people. That’s it.
The world doesn’t know how to love like this. The world’s love only goes so far. But God’s love goes all the way. And it’s that kind of love that God puts in you when you are born again.
The problem is that many born again Christians do not operate in this kind of love. Why? Well, John explains further. He says, “everyone who loves is born of God AND knows God.”
Being born of God gives you the capacity to love as God does. Knowing God makes it happen.
Notice the next verse:
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. – 1 John 4:8
I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years. Throughout those twenty years I’ve had many times where, although I was a saved, born again Christian, I was not loving people as I should have been (and still working on it!). I knew I was saved and that God loved me, but my outward love towards others wasn’t working quite right. However, when I am close to God like I should be, the love flows out automatically.
You see, when the Bible talks about knowing somebody, it’s not speaking of having an intellectual knowledge of them, but an experiential knowledge of them.
Imagine if you were talking to your friends about your favorite famous person. Perhaps some actor or athlete. And then imagine that I walked up and said, “I know him.” What would your reaction be?
“What? Really? No way!!!”
And then imagine that I said, “yeah, I read about him in a book. I know all about him.” Would you be impressed? Probably not.
God doesn’t want us to know Him based on what we read in the Bible or any other book. Don’t get me wrong, reading the Bible is EXTREMELY important. But truly knowing God goes much beyond that. Anyone can read the Bible. Even Satan has read the Bible (see Matthew 4:6). Knowing God involves having true fellowship with Him (i.e. hanging out together).
When you know God by spending time with Him, you’ll experience His love. When you experience His love it becomes much easier to share His love. Those that know God love like God.
John’s words here are designed to prod us. They are designed to get us thinking to ourselves, “do I love like I should?” And then, if the answer is no, we should think to ourselves, “Am I truly born again? Have I surrendered my life to completely to God?” If the answer is yes, then we should ask ourselves, “Do I know God like I ought to know Him? Or is my religion one of outward form and fashion, lacking the substance of a true relationship with God?” These are important questions to ask ourselves.
God has commanded us (read that: commanded us) to love one another just as He has loved us. Let us not fall short in this. But let us not think that this capacity to love is of ourselves. Nor let us think that human effort can accomplish such a love. Only those that are born of God and that know God will walk in a love like this. If we resign ourselves to seeking God like we should, many other things will take care of themselves. His love will constantly be experienced in us and thus make it easy to share that love with others. It is then that we will walk in all the fullness of God.
[I pray that you] may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. – Ephesians 3:18-19
Set yourself to seeking the God of love today. Be filled with that love and then share it with others. Amen!