Years of experience have changed my concept of love. As a young girl, it was a fluttery emotion that included how I felt for other people, but also how I loved my horses and a good pizza. Later, it became a term for commitment exemplified in getting up to feed a crying baby without having any fluttery emotions at all. It also became a choice, such as doing the right thing whether I felt like it or not, even refraining from doing the wrong thing when the wrong thing was totally tempting because ‘it felt so good.’
Now I understand love more like how God loves me. It is not like those descriptions. Not only that, His love helps me understand how I am to love others.
How can I describe God’s love? It is almost beyond description, but part of 1 Corinthians 13 gives this much:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7)
These verses are normally intended to describe how I am to love others. They talk about actions and attitudes, not feelings. However, another passage says that if I am going to love others like this, I must first know that God loves me . . .
“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. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:7–21)
“We love because he first loved us” is vital. I’ve learned that if I am not secure in that understanding, then instead of loving others, I will be continually seeking love from them. That is not how God describes love.
Knowing the love of God sets me free to love, yet this is not as simple as it sounds. For one thing, Satan’s lie to Eve went something like this: Oh, God does not really love you or want the best for you.
It is an old line, but his most effective one. It works because I so easily measure whether or not I am loved by my performance. If I do not live up to a certain standard, how can God love me? That lie of Satan goes both ways; he catches me with it when God does not do what I expect, and I wonder how can He love me?
The fact of the matter is that God loves because that is His nature: God is love! He proved it by sending Jesus into the world that I might live through Him.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? . . . . For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31–39)
Jesus, You are the proof that God loves me. When I abide in Your love, then I am secure. Not only that, I am free — I can graciously love others without concern for my own need to be loved. Yet again, this is not as easy as writing the words. The enemy lies. My own life falls short. Much of the time I’ve no idea why God is not answering prayer. Yet because of You, I know that I am loved, and because of You, I can love others, even if I don’t feel like it.