Welcome back to my first-ever blog series, entitled “What is Love?” Last time I explored the theme of romance in books and looked at how romance is different from true love. (If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.) Today, I’m going to be looking at what exactly true love is. There is plenty of Scripture that talks about it, and there are plenty of books out there that illustrate it.
I cannot write anything else in this post without mentioning the Circle Series (by Ted Dekker, if you don’t know). If you’ve never read this series, do it. Read it now. I’ll wait for you. Go ahead. The minute you’re done with it, tell me and we will have ourselves a nice, long conversation. It’s definitely one of my most favorite book series ever. It has lots of different themes within it, but the main theme is the Gospel, which is of course about love. In fact, the series pretty much changed my entire outlook on the Gospel. I’m not going to spoil anything about it… but it illustrates God’s love for us and our love for each other, and it’s just such a good series YOU HAVE TO READ IT.
Now I’m going to share some Scripture passages and talk about what they have to say about love. As I was looking through all the passages I want to share, I was debating which ones I should do today and which ones I should do next time. Should I open with what God says about loving one another, and end with God’s awe-inspiring love for us? Or should I open with the Gospel and conclude the series with how we ought to love one another? After a long debate with myself (I tend to overthink things…), I remembered the verse found in 1 John 4:19: “We love because he first loved us.” So, then, it would make sense to start with God’s love for us, and end with our love for each other. Because our love mirrors God’s perfect love.
Jesus is the ultimate example of love because he died for us. I touched on this the other day. An obvious verse is John 3:16. Practically everyone knows this verse, but in case you don’t, here is what it says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Since this is such a well-known verse that all young Christian children probably memorize, the words can sometimes become empty. I know they can for me. It’s like, “Oh yeah, John 3:16. That verse that talks about God’s love and eternal life.”
Have you ever had that problem with writing before? Maybe you’ve written a simply amazing sentence or paragraph, and you read what you’ve written and you just sit there basking in its awesomeness. Then you go back and read it again. And again. And again. As you keep rereading it, it starts to lose its flare. After a while, you’re not even reading the words anymore because you know exactly what they say. And because you’re not reading them, you’re not really hearing them. And so all meaning is lost.
But if you read, if you really read those words as if it were your first time reading them, they suddenly have meaning again. It’s the same with John 3:16. “For God so loved the world.” If you think about it, that’s pretty amazing. In the beginning, God created the entire world and everything in it was perfect. There was no sin, no death, and Adam and Eve had direct access to God their Creator. But after they sinned (in other words, after they completely turned their backs on the very person who breathed life into them), sin entered the world, they no longer had direct access to God, and the universe was then in disarray and chaos. BUT. God so loved the world.
One little thing here before I go on, because my mind just works like this. John’s choice of conjunction here is very specific. I just said “but” (to make a point), but John said “FOR.” If you connect the end of verse 15 with the beginning of verse 16, it makes perfect sense: “Whoever believes in him may have eternal life, for God so loved the world.” The reason we can have eternal life is because God so loved the world. John goes on to explain this. God loved us so much that he gave us his one and only precious Son, who died for us. If we simply believe in him, we will have eternal life.
Have you ever known anyone else with love like this? Who would give up so much for a world that hates him? Who would turn his back on his only son in order to save a bunch of sinful rebels? There is only one person like that, and his name is God.
Another verse is from Romans 5:6-8. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And shortly after, Paul adds, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23.)
These verses illustrate the immensity of Jesus the Son’s love for us. Like Paul said, not many people would die for someone else. And even if you did, you’d have to really love that person. So if it takes great love to die for someone who is very close to you, how much more love did Jesus have? He died for us before we ever loved him. He chose to love us while we were still turning away from him. (Again, I would like to direct you toward the Circle Series.)
The last passage I’m going to share today acts as a bridge between this post and my next post. And you can see why:
“‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.'” (John 15:12)
So we have just seen how Jesus loved us. And now he commands us to love others in that same way. Love unconditionally. Love without expecting anything else in return. Love sacrificially. Love others as Christ has loved you.
There is a lot more than that in this verse, though. To truly understand all of it, we need to look at the context. This is part of a long conversation Jesus is having with his disciples. I literally filled an entire page with everything that happens before this verse and all the events that lead up to it. Unfortunately… this post is already way longer than I wanted it to be, so I’ll share a few things and leave the rest for you to find.
The conversation takes place after the Last Supper and after Judas had already left. One thing I find very interesting is that Jesus begins his speech with the words “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) He goes on to say lots of other things, but comes back to the commandment to love one another. Then after that, he says finally, “Take heart; I have overcome the world.” Shortly after that he is arrested and then crucified.
Perhaps another time I will talk about this more in-depth, but for now I’m going to leave you with Jesus’s command to his disciples: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
And… my next (and final) post in this series will be about how Jesus instructed us to love each other. By the way, if you have anything you’d like to add about the verses I shared, feel free to comment. I’d love to hear from you!