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Country Pastor column: Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another

"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." (1 John 4:10-11)

It is not hard to see that the theme of these verses of Scripture is the theme of "love!" In the 38 words these verses contain, the word "love" is repeated five times. What appropriate verses for Valentine's Day! Not only is the word repeated often — it is the subject of three important lessons contained in the brief statement that is made.

The definition of love: John says that the definition of love is not found in our love for God—but in His love for us! How pathetic love would be if its definition was found in our love for God—we so often love Him very poorly.

The demonstration of love: To simply define love, however, by saying God loved and loves us would leave us with a vague understanding of the concept of love. While the word "love" is a noun, it finds its fullest expression and meaning as a verb. Throughout the Scriptures we see God demonstrating love! "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) That demonstration is powerfully defined in 1 John 4:10 above where we read that God, "sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." The death or sacrifice of Jesus on the cross "atoned for" our sin. His sacrifice was such that God poured out His entire wrath against sin — on Jesus — so that His wrath against sin was fully satisfied. In other words, the penalty which every human being in history deserves was completely paid in and by Jesus when He died on the cross. That is how He demonstrated His love for you!

Someone put it this way, "I asked Jesus, 'how much do you love me?' and He stretched out His arms and said, 'this much,' and He died."

The demand of love: These verses first define love, and then show God's demonstration of it — and finally they demand that we, too, love in the same way! "Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." God is not here demanding that we give our lives as an atoning sacrifice for others — Jesus has done that! He is demanding that the motivating force behind our relationship with others be that of love—the same degree, quality and extent of love that Jesus has shown to us.

"A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34) Now who can live up to that command? God never commands us to do something without giving us the grace and strength to do it! Galatians 5:22 reminds us that love is a fruit of God's Spirit who lives within the believer!

Let us meditate on the above verses of 1 John 4 until they increase our faith toward God and our love for Him and for one another!