Early on in my Christian life I learned the 1 John 4:7 and 8 song. This catchy tune and direct-quote-of-scripture lyrics stuck in my brain and played over and over. I can remember requesting that song when my small group leader brought his guitar so our group could sing. (Not familiar with the song? Click here.) What is there not to love about this tune? Yet these two verses are far more than a catchy song. They embody much of the Christian message.
God Is Love
Of all of the religions in the world, Christianity is the only one with love at its core. The essence of God is love. He has always existed, though not in some solitary vacuum. His existence is enveloped in community. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit give and receive perfect love for all of eternity. God created humans so He could extend His love outside of Himself.
In the garden, God warned the first man and woman against eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and suffering death. When they chose to eat of it anyway, God’s love kept Him from allowing death to immediately fall upon the couple.
Their sin has put a chasm between God and His people; a chasm that no one can ever do enough to bridge. The broad story of the Old Testament is God’s continual pursuit of a people who rebelled, sinned, and turned their backs on Him. In return, He extended love, grace, and mercy in an effort to woo His people back to Himself.
Justice Must Be Served
While God freely displays His love through mercy, justice still needs to be served. He would not be a good God if the only evidence of His love was mercy. At the same time, He would not be a good God if He responded only with justice. A balance between the two was necessary.
In order to be both just and merciful, God did the unthinkable. He allowed His Son – the essence of Himself – to endure the penalty that rightly belonged to humanity. Jesus carried the burden of all humanity’s sin through death to the grave. But the story didn’t end there. By rising from the dead, Jesus conquered death and made it possible for us, who are condemned to death, to rise with Him to everlasting life.
The penalty was paid by Jesus allowing justice to be done. And because justice is served, we who believe are able to bask in God’s love through the free gift of redemption.
Love Is Not Without Cost
The love we freely receive was not without cost. God paid the ultimate price in order for us to experience His lavish love. We show our gratitude for the price Jesus paid on our behalf by loving others in the same manner God loves us.
And so John rightly writes:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. ~1 John 4.7-8
God’s love is the motivation for our own love. When we love, even when it costs us, we reflect God’s love and make it known to a world that is desperate for a sign that all is not lost.