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Answering Love | Practical Theology

  • February 2024 Issue
Practical Theology

“We cannot separate God’s love from all the other aspects of His nature. Love is not the soft side of God that cancels out His ‘harder’ attributes such as justice or righteousness.”

What is love? Listen to just about any popular song, and you might conclude that love is desire. Others argue that love is more than just a feeling, it’s what you do. The Bible asserts that “God is love” (see 1 John 4:8, 16). We cannot separate God’s love from all the other aspects of His nature. Love is not the soft side of God that cancels out His “harder” attributes such as justice or righteousness. God’s love is perfect. God’s love reflects His holiness, goodness, and wisdom and exists in harmony with all the other aspects of His nature.

According to 1 John 4:7, “love comes from God.” This means that our love is an answering love. In other words, it is a reflection of God’s perfect love. God enables us to love others, and we are able to love God “because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). For this reason, love for God and love for others are bound together. First John 4:20–21 warns, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

Because genuine love is grounded in God, Jesus points to love as the sum of all God’s commandments. The essence of obedience is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. As Jesus observed, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt. 22:40). If we want to increase our love for God, we must look to Him first. If we wish to demonstrate our love for God, we must love our neighbor.

God proved His love for us beyond all doubt by sending Jesus Christ (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10). He did not wait for us to reciprocate His love. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). God also expresses His love through us. When we love one another, “God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:12).

For Further Study

To learn more, read The Love of God: An Intimate Look at the Father-Heart of God by Oswald Chambers (Our Daily Bread).

BY Dr. John Koessler

John Koessler is Professor Emeritus of Applied Theology and Church Ministries at Moody Bible Institute. John authors the “Practical Theology” column for Today in the Word of which he is also a contributing writer and theological editor. An award-winning author, John’s newest title is When God is Silent: Let the Bible Teach You to Pray (Kirkdale). Prior to joining the Moody faculty, he served as a pastor of Valley Chapel in Green Valley, Illinois, for nine years. He and his wife, Jane, now enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan.

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