“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8)
God is love. This is the most definitive statement regarding not only the character of God but also the nature of God. This is the only statement in the Bible that describes the identity of God; everything else that is true of Him, is true by the virtue that God is love. It does not state that God is loving, but that God is love.
In the society that we live in today, the definition of love has been misunderstood: it has been used with such frequency that it has lost its true essence but also, due to language it has been lost in translation. According to the dictionary love is a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person; it is a warm personal attachment or even a sexual desire. Naturally we understand that the love we have for our favourite food is not the same love we have for our parents or siblings, yet the same word is used to express our fondness and admiration. However in the Greek this is not the case, the ancient language distinguishes love into four categories: eros, philia, storge and agape.
Eros when translated is a sexual, romantic love toward another person; it is very much a surface level love which fluctuates. Primarily this type of love is based upon a raw attraction.
Diversely philia is a friendly, brotherly love; felt between close friends. This bond is built and cultivated through quality time and effort along with various commonalities. While eros and philia are experienced later down in life, storge is an innate type of love. This affectionate, familial love is the most natural, or common, manifestation of love that we know. Hence, God expresses Himself as a parental figure because He understands our familiarity with storge: there is nothing we can do to earn our heavenly Father’s love, just as a child never earnt the love of their parents as it's simply intrinsic. Yet storge and the other preceding forms of love are not what 1 John 4:8 refers to.
The greatest and highest form of love used in 1 John 4:8 is agape. This love differs greatly from the others: it is unconditional, non circumstantial, regardless of time, context, external or internal factors. It is actuated despite one’s flaws, weaknesses, blemishes or bruises; while other forms of love are based on emotions, quality time or choice agape is a pure love, based upon unshaking principles:
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)
Agape is firmly founded on principles and so is God thus all the characteristics depicted are attributed to God, so in other words:
God suffers long and is kind; God does not envy; God does not parade Himself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek His own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; God bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. God never fails.
God who is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness in truth” (Exodus 34:6) has a special place in His heart that only you can fill. His love for you is as distinct and full as though there was none other being on the planet. His love toward you is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3), it is perpetual, one that never ceases no matter the circumstance. If you do good things God’s love does not increase, if you fail or make mistakes God’s love does not diminish. Whatever you do or have done, whatever you may say, He still loves you. Whether you choose to believe in Him or perceive Him to be fiction – God loves you. For neither death nor life, angels nor demons, neither fears for today nor worries for tomorrow – nothing in all creation can separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:38-29).
Jesus Christ who was with The Father before the beginning of time (John 1:1) is love personified. Before humanity came into existence the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit were in close fellowship (Zechariah 13:7; Genesis 1:26). The Father loves the son (John 17:23,24), the Son loves the Father (John 14:31) the Holy Spirit testifies and glorifies the Son: love cannot exist singularly for love is centred in selflessness and service, without this, pure love cannot exist as the true nature of love is sacrificial. The Godhead is the epitome of other centred love. Thus Jesus, one who knew the height and depth of the love of God could make it known to us. Out of love for us, Jesus voluntarily came down to be a ransom and a reunion for humanity.
However the plan of redemption was not an afterthought. God did not destine that sin should exist but He foresaw its inception and made provision to meet the terrible emergency; for Jesus was the Lamb slain before creation (Revelation 13:8), He was promised before the world began (Titus 1:2). His unshaken love for His creation moved Him to cast off the privileges of divinity and to become forever bound with His creation. Through this Jesus was to manifest the depth, the height, the width and the length of the Father’s love for us – for Christ, God with us was and is love personified.
Since Jesus came and dwelt among us, we have the surety that God is not ignorant of our trials and temptations for He was tempted in “all points like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Christ experienced grief at the loss of His earthly Father, He relates to our pain caused by our closest companions for He was betrayed by one of His own (Matthew 26:47-50), while another denied His existence (Luke 22:54-61). From the heavenly courts, He lived a life of poverty on earth, His own people did not accept Him. The pain and humiliation He endured is beyond comprehension: the saliva on His face from those He came to save (Matthew 27:30), the beatings, the scourging, the hunger and the thirst. He hung on the tree, His hands and feet pierced from those whom He created, yet in the midst of this He prayed that they would be forgiven (Luke 23:34). Through all the hate and shame, His love was revealed: the nails in His hands, the spear in His side, He suffered all the pain for you and me. He was rejected so that we could be accepted. He was naked so that we would be clothed with His righteousness, through His death we might have life – heaven’s irony.
Yet through all this, Christ could have forfeited His mission to save us, through all of this – He could have sinned. Adam and Eve were banished for one sin and so with Christ one sin could have eternally separated Him from the Father: one evil look, one slip of the tongue, one cherished thought, one prideful gesture, one act of disobedience as a child – all could have been lost. If Christ had failed, all humanity would have been lost too but He was willing to risk it all for you.
While Jesus was hanging on the tree, it was not the nails in His hands and feet that held Him there – it was His love for you. He endured the pain and despised the shame for you – you were the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). Through this act, we learn that love is not measured by how much one is willing to give but on how much one is willing to give up: “for God so loved [you] that He gave His only begotten Son, that [if you] believe in Him [you] should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
Are you willing to get to know the One who died for you personally, to taste and see that He is good and experience Him for yourself?