Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 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. 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 4:7–12)
Here the Apostle John soars upon the heights of theology, and gives us a glimpse into the love of God. Wary should we be of thinking that God’s love is just a bigger version of human love. Slow should we be to take such a love for granted. Here are words to savour indeed.
We are to love one another, because love is from God. In fact, John tells us, God is love. This is an important thing to grasp. If God is love, then all his actions are also loving. This means that his justice is loving, and his holiness is loving. It also means, that the whole mission of Christ is loving.
Another important thing to grasp from this passage is that God’s love comes first. Flattering though it is to think that God loves us because we love him (or are lovely), the truth is that the love of God was poured out even though we were caught up in sin. Jesus was sent to be a ‘propitiation’ for our sins, which means that he came to pay the penalty for them. Love is all the more profound when it is directed at those who might be said to be unlovely.
This is why we should love one another. Our love is simply a response to God’s love as it overflows though us. We might not be able to see God, but can be aware of him dwelling within us as we demonstrate his love to others.
This, then, is John’s great statement on the love of God. A love which can echo in our actions. A love which is deeper that human love.