God is Love
Text: I John 4:7-21
How would you define love? Would you recognize it if you saw it? Would you be certain that it was love if you had it?
The Bible gives two definitions of love. The first one, found in Song of Solomon 8:6-7 describes the passion of love. “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised” (Song of Solomon 8:6-7). A seal is a small cylinder with carvings on its surface. Its use was how people uniquely signed documents because every person’s seal would be different. If it was lost or stolen someone could forge agreements in that person’s name. Hence, a seal was both personal and very valuable to that individual. A person kept their seal bound to their arm or chest in order to keep track of it. Shulamith states that love is the same, it is personal and very valuable to the ones who are in love. She also states that it is strong and doesn’t give up easily by comparing it to death and the grave. Death does not lightly let go of those who have died and neither does love does love end. Using the image of an overwhelming flood to represent problems and love being a mighty fire, Shulamith states that love is not easily stopped by life’s problems. Nor is love for sale. All the money in the world cannot buy true love.
In I Corinthians 13:4-8, Paul gives a more technical definition of what is love.
God gives every child examples of love in their own lives as they grow up. Each of us experience the love that our parents have for us, and we see the love that our parents have for each other. Of course, parents are people, and people make mistakes and sometimes fail in their duties. However, overall we get the gist of what love is about by watching those who raise us.
We spoke in the last lesson about God being our Father. Just has our earthly fathers demonstrate love, God demonstrates love to us as well. Where our earthly fathers may make mistakes, our heavenly Father demonstrates love perfectly because God is love (I John 4:8, 16). By saying “God is love” the Bible is saying that God is the source of love (I John 4:7) and that He is the embodiment of love.
John tells us that God’s love is demonstrated in what He willingly sacrificed on our behalf (I John 4:9). Jesus told his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus then proceeded to do this very thing by offering up his own life to purchase our salvation. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). In other words, God didn’t just say He loved us; He showed His love by what He was willing to sacrifice. “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him” (I John 3:16-19).
Jesus willingly did this so that we might benefit from his love. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
God’s love is also shown in His care for us. David described this love by using the illustration of a shepherd’s love and care for his sheep in Psalm 23. Jesus also talked about God’s care in his sermon on the mount found in Matthew 6:25-34. God values each of us. He gives us just what we need. “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:11-13).
Finally, God demonstrates His love toward us by willingly making us His children. “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! “ (I John 3:1).
If you think about it, parents love their children without expecting much in return. Many times the love starts before the child is even born. Even after birth, parents are willing to put up with a lot of misery because they love their child. A newborn is cute, but it certainly isn’t lovable in the practical sense. Babies fuss and cry. They keep their parents up at all hours of the night. Every little thing must be done for the baby, including changing messy diapers. Now just what did an infant do to deserve love? What benefit does a parent gain from a child that costs him money in food, clothing, diapers, and equipment? Yet, if you ask any parent, the cost doesn’t matter. The sleepless nights and jangled nerves are worth it – because parents love their children.
Just like our parents, God’s love is persistent and strong. He doesn’t love His people because we deserve it or because God owes it to us. God pointed this out to Israel after He lead them out of the land of Egypt and through the wilderness. “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). And it is no different for the Christian today. “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:3-7). The “works of righteousness” mentioned in this verse is satire. Mankind in general does not involve itself in righteous deeds when left on its own. The point is that God loved us even though we were unlovable people.
The love a parent has for the children of their own bodies is amazing; but some parents show an even greater love. Some parents are willing to give love to children who are not their own. What kind of love does it take to accept someone else’s burden? Even when an older child is adopted, they are rarely loveable at the beginning. They are in a new environment and are uncertain as to their position in the family. Often times they cannot trust their new parents because so many in the past have abandoned them. They just don’t know if it is for real or not. As a result, they take their uncertainties out on their new parents; often times crossing the line of acceptable behavior just to see if their parents really mean it. And yet there are couples willing to work at breaking down this defensive barrier and to show love even when it is not returned.
Because we grew up being loved, many people do not realize that love doesn’t just happen. Love is taught.
Finally, our parent’s love for us gives us confidence to face the world. There might be people out there willing to hurt us. We might get our feelings hurt. We might stumble and hurt ourselves. But behind all the problems is the knowledge that there is someone who truly loves us. I can take my problems to them and they will help me sort things out. I might disappoint them at times, but they are always there when I need them. “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (I John 4:17-18).
- Go through Psalms 23 point by point
- What is being stated about a shepherd’s care of his sheep?
- What is being stated about God’s care for His people?
- Give an example of how God shows His care in this manner.
- Go through Matthew 6:25-34
- What are the basic things that each person needs?
- How does God give these basic necessities to the creatures of His creation?
- Which is of more value: plant life, animal life, or human life? Why?
- What does worry accomplish? Why?
- Does God’s love mean that He will accept us just as we are?
- What should God’s love cause in us? (Romans 2:4)
- Is there any reason that people must perish in their sins? (Ezekiel 18:23, 30-32)
- The why did Jesus point out that most people will end up in hell? (Matthew 7:13-14)
- Whose fault is this?
- Should your parents accept you just as you are?
- Find songs which speak of God’s love. Ask some of the boys in class to lead a song.
- Write a prayer expressing thankfulness for the love God has shown for us.