This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. -1 John 4:10-12
We love because God loved us first. It’s not that we loved God, searched him out, and discovered that he loved us, too. No, long before we ever had any interest in him, he had his eye on us and loved us with an everlasting love.
And it wasn’t because we were so irresistibly lovable, either.
If God had waited for us to become lovable enough before he loved us, he’d still be waiting. From the beginning until now, his love was based upon his character, not ours. John is saying that since this love is real and genuine, it should humble and overwhelm us. We ought to love one another, even if “they” aren’t so warm and fuzzy.
This love for one another signals to the world around us that something real is happening in our midst. We know that others aren’t always easy to love, and usually, we treat them just as they deserve. So when we do something so astounding as to show love unconditionally, just as Jesus loves us, first, it pleases God, and then, it draws others to him.
Our love for others is probably the primary way people learn that we have something you can’t find anywhere else. When they see us loving one another—real, sacrificial love, they know from their own experience that the unusual is taking place.
It wasn’t the church’s doctrines that first gained the attention of the Roman world, but the love found among the Christians—not just for one another, but for others as well. The first Christians loved even the ones who mistreated and persecuted them. (A word of clarification: Please understand that if you’re living in an abusive relationship—emotional, verbal, or physical, this doesn’t mean that God wants you to submit to your abuser. Your situation requires help, so speak to someone whom you trust.)
But true Christian love isn’t optional. It’s not something we can wait to do when we feel like it—it’s the central requirement and identifying characteristic of the true church. Our lives will make a lasting impact with compassionate, vibrant love, and without it, nothing else we do will make the slightest difference.
As we love, Jesus’ love is made complete in us. So when we’re praying, let’s ask for the impossible: real, tangible, measurable love for one another. It will make all the difference in your life, your family’s life, and the lives of others.
John I. Snyder is an international pastor (currently serving at Starnberg Fellowship, Starnberg, Germany), conference speaker, and author of the book Resenting God: Escape the Downward Spiral of Blame (ranked #1 on Christian Ethics in Theology on Amazon) from Abingdon Press. His highly acclaimed prayer guide Your 100 Day Prayer: The Transforming Power of Actively Waiting on God (ranked #1 on Meditations on Amazon books, #1 on Prayer on Amazon Kindle, #9 on Christian living on Amazon) from Thomas Nelson Publishers has transformed the lives of readers all over the world, taking them on a 100-day journey in prayer over a specific issue or circumstance in their lives. John received his Master of Theology and Master of Divinity degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey, and he received his Doctor of Theology degree magna cum laude in New Testament Studies from the University of Basel, Switzerland. John has been featured on Focus on the Family, Moody Radio, Fox News, Faith Radio Network, Cru, American Family Radio Network, In the Market with Janet Parshall, The Bottom Line with Roger Marsh, Miracle Channel, Bill Martinez Live, and many more.