God Is Love
1 John 4:7-21 (ESV) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
“God is love” (1 John 4:16). The fact that God is love is more meaningful when we realize that He is Triune. True love is not love of self, but rather the nature of love is to step outside itself and give of itself to others. Put another way, for love to exist, there must be community. God is the perfect community of love since the Persons of the Holy Trinity love each other perfectly.
The most frequent mention of love within the Trinity is between the Father and the Son. Jesus prayed to His Father, “You loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). The world cannot comprehend such perfect and complete love.
Then consider the mind-boggling, unbelievable central teaching of the Christian Church: “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). We cannot believe that a loving parent could bear to sacrifice a child unto death, but the Father shows His love for the world precisely in this way. And the Son is willing because He loves us too! Jesus said, “The Father loves me because I lay down my life [for the sheep] that I may take it up again” (John 10:17).
The Son sends the Holy Spirit so that we may know of God’s great love for us: Jesus said, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” (John 15:26). The Spirit coming to the Church through Word and Sacrament was Jesus’ goal all along, as He prayed to His Father, “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).
Since Jesus has made known to us God’s name in Baptism (Matthew 28:19), we now rejoice to continue to receive the revelation of God and His salvation in the Holy Christian Church, where the love of God dwells in us—most concretely, that Jesus Christ dwells in us with the fruits of His supreme act of love, His body given and blood shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
Prayer (LSB 429):
1. We sing the praise of Him who died,
Of Him who died upon the cross.
The sinner’s hope let all deride;
For this we count the world but loss.
2. Inscribed upon the cross we see
In shining letters, “God is love.”
He bears our sins upon the tree;
He brings us mercy from above.
3. The cross! It takes our guilt away;
It holds the fainting spirit up;
It cheers with hope the gloomy day
And sweetens ev’ry bitter cup.
4. It makes the coward spirit brave
And nerves the feeble arm for fight;
It takes the terror from the grave
And gilds the bed of death with light;
5. The balm of life, the cure of woe,
The measure and the pledge of love,
The sinner’s refuge here below,
The angels’ theme in heav’n above.
6. To Christ, who won for sinners grace
By bitter grief and anguish sore,
Be praise from all the ransomed race
Forever and forevermore. Amen.