When you were a kid, you expressed your true love with a homemade, paper Valentine which declared “Roses are red…” It was also true when you were still a child and lived in a ‘traditional’ home—with a mom and dad, sister, brother, and a dog, maybe—that you related “Jesus loves me” to the affection your parents showed you.
As teens, however, your thoughts of love were mostly romantic and totally unrealistic. Furthermore, given how self-centered they were, that “luv” had absolutely no resemblance to biblical love.
So, when we begin to think of biblical love, we have to turn to the Scriptures for a clear picture of what God intends love to be. Today’s text gives the prime example of love: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” John goes on to say that we should be ready to do the same: “And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
Wow! That’s a pretty high standard; how can we ever achieve it? Perhaps it would be helpful to realize that the essence of biblical love, so well illustrated in the life and death of Jesus, is sacrifice. John gives an illustration of what that kind of sacrifice might mean among believers: sharing material possessions with family members in need. It’s a very strong statement with a negative connotation. “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”
Another “Wow”! This doesn’t sound like a take-it-or-leave-it option, but rather a hard and fast guideline: give to others in need even if it means sacrifice on your part. Or is John saying it isn’t really an indication of biblical love unless it involves sacrifice?
When the Apostle then says, “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth,” he seems to be in agreement with what James expresses in 2:14-17 of his epistle. “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions?” (v. 14). Today we might say, “Actions speak louder than words.”
Back to thinking about love through one’s life span. It’s family affection as children; it’s often just romance in young adulthood. But as we mature, love takes on a little different character. Certainly, genuine love among humans continues to include affection and romance—at least it should, but there’s an added or expanded dimension: caring. Caring for one another as we grow older may involve sacrifice, but it’s done willingly out of a once-made and still-held commitment.
Surely, this is true in the physical realm of marriage, but it should be even more true in the spiritual relationships within the family of God. This is what biblical love is all about: showing I care by my willing sacrifice for another’s good.