Author: Nick Tarter
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” -1 John 4:8 ESV
God is love. Let us make no bones about that and let us revel in the fact of it. Love proceeds forth from His character. It exists because it is a part of who God is. Love is not self existent. It exists because God exists and thus love has always been because God has always been. Love will never cease because God always is. The apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes these words to us…
“Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.” -1 Corinthians 13:8 ESV
“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” -1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV
Of all the attributes a Christian should exemplify, love is paramount.
Our culture is obsessed with love. From the Beatles boldly singing that love is all we need, to movies which show us that if only we could find true love we could finally be complete people, to political rallies demanding tolerance and inclusion in the name of love; we are obsessed with the ideas of love and the actions of love. In fact, our culture makes some very good points about love and we indeed enjoy some common wisdom when it comes to the topic. God is passionate about love and that we exemplify love is of the utmost importance to Him.
But… what is love? That’s the real question. When we talk about love, what do we mean? How do we define it? Because if love is the most important thing for us to exemplify according to God, it would seem that we ought to do our due diligence to find out what love is in the first place. How sad it would be for us to spend our lives loving under an assumption of the wrong definition, only to stand before God one day and realize that what we thought was love wasn’t love at all. Shooting an arrow is easy but unless it is aimed in the right direction, it will either be frivolous or end up piercing and destroying what was not intended.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” -Romans 12:9 ESV
Our culture is obsessed with love, but more often than not it assumes there wrong definition. Love is critical and even foremost, but love is not everything. Sorry John Lennon, but love is not all we need. In fact, for love to be truly loving, it must be framed in the right context. That context is the character and nature of God. Love does not stand over God, ruling Him. Love is a part of God. It proceeds from God. Therefore true love will never sacrifice any of the other attributes of God to achieve its purposes.
This means that perfect love is always consistent with the mercy of God as well as the law, the justice and the wrath of God. This is why Paul, by the Spirit’s leading in Romans 12:9, follows up his saying that our love must be without hypocrisy by saying that we must hate evil things and hold onto good things. True love must be framed within the context of faith in Christ. True love is honest about sin in our own lives and in the lives of others. True love is passionate about clinging to the gospel hope we have in Christ. It hates evil and celebrates good according to God’s standard rather than human standards.
A lot of what our world calls love, isn’t love at all. It proceeds from the wrong center. According to Romans 12, anything that proceeds from a source other than faith in Christ is sin. Love by any definition outside of God, is sin. It is like firing an arrow and missing the target, wounding a friend rather than harvesting life giving meat.
God sent Jesus to show us what love is really like. He sent Jesus to save us rather than to destroy us. However, He can do nothing for the ones who refuse to listen; who refuse to come on His terms.
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 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.” -1 John 4:8-10 ESV
Did God the Father fail to love Jesus His Son because He crushed Him in our place? Absolutely not! He loved Christ even in crushing Him. Christ desired to be crushed for us in order that He might redeem us; to save us from our sins. Love is about putting others’ well-being and interests above our own. Love is not always what makes things easy or what makes us happy. Love often hurts, but gives us life through the pain. Love is truth. Love is telling someone something difficult for their good and being willing to face the consequences. Love is taking on a burden for a friend even though it hurts, because you know that by bearing the burden you have given them life. Love often wounds one or both parties involved. Pain doesn’t mean there is a lack of love. Jesus demonstrates this clearly to us. Let’s not forget that without the bloody cross and empty tomb, the gospel would be terrible news for us, and yet it would still be love within God’s character. Destroying sinners would not only be right and good, but loving of God for the sake of His glory. By crushing Jesus he fulfills that part of His love (the one that would crush us) and makes it possible for us to experience His grace and mercy.
So, real love comes from God. It finds its definition in Him. Be careful then how you love. Don’t misfire the arrow. Remain in Christ. Otherwise one day you will find yourself and others in your path wounded rather than blessed by your so called loving acts.
Love is everything and yet apart from God it is nothing, because it isn’t love at all. May we root ourselves in Him.
About the author: Nick Tarter is a CrossOver Online contributor, a pastor at City Life Church in Bethany, OK, and a Church Planting Strategist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. He is an avid Jeeper, outdoors enthusiast, and family man who loves the church, the Bible, and is passionate about theology. Nick holds a Bachelor’s in Humanaties and Philosophy from UCO in Edmond, OK and a Masters in Theology from Liberty University.