“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).
The most memorized verse in the Bible is John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” One of the primary motivations that led Christ to this earth was God’s love for the world. As John 15:13 says, there is no greater love that could be demonstrated. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John takes this even further in 1 John 3:16 when he says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” There is profound truth in 1 John 3:16.
When John says, “By this we know love,” he isn’t just saying that Jesus’ love for us is a good example that we should follow. He isn’t simply telling us that that is the standard we should all try to measure up to. No, John is saying that we don’t even know the standard… we don’t even know love unless we know Jesus’ act of love in giving himself over for us. In fact, let’s take this yet another step deeper. The sole reason that people love another is because God is love. As 1 John 4:8 says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” We love because we have been created in the image of God, and because God is love. You are loved purely because God is love.
The word “Advent” is the Latin translation of the Greek word “Parousia.” Parousia in the Greek is typically translated into our English word “coming.” It means more than simply expectation. It means arrival. The first coming of Jesus was the arrival of God to earth. It was the arrival of Immanuel, God with us; love with us. The only way we know love is because of Jesus, Immanuel.
Over the last sixty years or so, love has become a trendier, popular trait to show to others. Search Google images for “hippies” and you will soon find a hippie holding a sign that says, “Make Love Not War.” Over the last fifteen years or so, love has become synonymous with tolerance. Tolerance as our culture teaches it is approving of anyone’s choice of life. Whether their life agrees with your standards of right and wrong doesn’t matter. You should show them love by not just staying silent about their choices, but by approving of their choices.
As we consider Jesus’ birth this Christmas season, we must redefine our understanding of love based on Christ’s demonstration of love. He loved people by going to the cross because their standards of right and wrong were out of whack. He gave himself over to the Father’s plan to put him to death on the cross because the people were living in sin. Because he loved people, he called out their sin and told them to turn and follow him. His first words were, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But as 1 John 4:8, John 15:13, and 1 John 3:16 show us, Jesus’ love did not just entail calling people out of sin. His love was also demonstrated through action.
This Christmas season, may we know love more tangibly than we have before. May our eyes be set on Christ as “love with us.” And may the love of God shown to us through Christ lead us to be people of love as we seek to follow Christ faithfully.