For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV)
As I walked through Walmart the other day, I noticed that on the shelves sat Valentine’s Day candy. As I continued picking up a few things, I pondered the topic of love. For us living in 2018, it is important to understand that we have been conditioned and discipled by our culture’s understanding of love. Our culture has swallowed this Greek influenced notion hook, line, and sinker. It permeates with the idea that love is centered on self. Not only is it centered on self, but it also carries with it the notion that it must bring us instant gratification. Sadly, love has become much like a junk drawer. This skewed idea of love is the air we breathe in Western society. I propose that this idea of love has done devastating damage to marriages, the family, and relationships. At it’s root, it has infused a false narrative about love into our lives. Because our culture defines love as being about self, it has also skewed our ability to be loved by others. The poison in the potion has caused us to think that our ability to be loved is based upon how lovable we are. Because of this, we must perform and meet the standards of everyone else in order to be loved.
The Scriptures stand in stark contrast to this understanding and false narrative. In 1 John 4:8, we see where love gets its meaning as it tells us that God is love. So the very character of God defines for you and me the truth of what love is. God is the only one who can set the true definition. So how does God demonstrate this love then? Quite simply, he pursues. Love is defined not by what we get out of it, but rather by what is given. God being love acts in love.
John 3:16 starts off and says, “For God so loved the world.” Think deeply about this, God loves us not because we are deserving of his love and intrinsically lovable—we weren’t. Sin had marred and deformed us. It had beat us up as we shook our fist at the heavens. We were not deserving of love, but the One who is love, set his love on us before the foundation of the world (see Ephesians 1:3-10). God loved a rebellious world of idolaters, rebels, and glory thieves. God loved you and me so much that He gave His only Son. Since this was the plan before time (see Acts 2:23), it is not conditioned upon our performance, but solely upon God’s character. John goes on to say that “whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal live.” Eternal life is knowing God (see John 17:3). Knowing the God, who is love, frees us up to be loved and to extend love. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). This is God’s definition of love and our well to draw from as we pursue loving others.
Written by Pastor Rick Bartek