Millions of people around the world are very familiar with the famous passage found in John 3:16 about how the Father loved the world so much that He gave His unique Son Jesus to die for our sins. But many of them are probably not aware of the detailed explanation of His love in that passage that was explained also by the same author found in his first epistle (1 John). I had reason to believe this is the case because all four accounts of the Gospel we had the word “love” spread all throughout the Gospel of John.
As we all know, there are four Greek words for “love” which are phileo, eros, agape, and storge. Among the four Greek words mentioned, only the word storge could not be found in the Scripture. Instead, we can only find its Greek counterpart, that is astorge, which means “without natural affection” towards kindred or family. (See Rom. 1:31; 2 Tim. 3:3) The word agape can be found 37 times in the 27 verses of the Book of John. The Gospel account of Matthew mentioned the Greek word agape for 8 times only in 7 passages. The Gospel account of Mark mentioned it 5 times in 4 passages. While the Gospel account of Luke only mentioned the Greek word agape 13 times in 9 passages. Interestingly, the apostle Paul only mentioned the Greek word agape 34 times in 28 verses in his thirteen epistles. In comparison, the apostle John mentioned the Greek word agape 37 times in 27 passages in the Book of John alone which excludes his epistles and prophetic book. Overall, John mentioned the Greek word agape 72 times in all of his writings, making him the top New Testament writer who expounds on the subject of love among other apostles in relation to Jesus Christ and the church. We all know the author of love is none other than God Himself. But all around the world, the word “love” has been redefined to suit their very own convenience.
The perverted understanding about “love” today is heard in a number of modern and popular songs that even promote adultery and fornication without our young people knowing it. Do we really want to believe this is now the “new” definition of love today? Why don’t we go back to our divine manual and check how we can really live in love. Let us study 1 John 3:11-18 then see the connection of real love with real living?
1. Living In God’s Love Is Taking Care.
This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 1 John 3:11, NIV1984
Since the word “agape” is defined as unconditional love, this love for sure involves caring for people. To love is to care for that person. To love is to show interest and concern. Surprisingly, the apostle John uses Cain as an illustration of how not to care. The next passage warns us not to be like Cain, who belonged to the devil who eventually murdered his brother. (See 1 Jn. 3:12) Cain has no care whatsoever with his brother. He did not show any interest or concern about his brother. To get angry at somebody is not to show any interest or concern about that person. To get angry at someone is to murder that person in the eyes of God. (See 1 Jn. 3:15) Interestingly, the English word “care” in the verb has been defined by a dictionary as having “concern” or “interest.” No wonder, the word “care” was use by the Lord in his story about the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. Luk. 10:34, NIV1984
That simply means the Samaritan “took concern or interest of him.” It is also important to understand that if you love a person then you need to be concerned about his interest. The Lord Jesus Christ ask’s Peter if he loves Him. If he does then he must also be concerned of the well-being of His lamb and sheep.
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” Jn. 21:16, NIV1984
He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” Jn. 21:16, NASB
What is the concern of your children? Isn’t it taking time with them? What is the interest of your parents? Isn’t it to focus and finish your studies? What is the concern of your spouse? Isn’t it To prioritize and provide for the needs of your family? Most importantly, what is the concern and interest of our Lord? Isn’t it to reach the lost and take care of His flock through small groups? If you can show any concern of these things, then you are truly showing them what God’s love is all about.
2. Living in God’s Love is Taking Sacrifice.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 1 John 3:16, NIV1984
To love someone is to sacrifice. The apostle John described love in the way Jesus gave His life for the Church. If this is the case, then we ought to lay down our life for our brothers and sisters in the Lord. This is what we call sacrificial love. Sacrificial love is not easy. Sacrificial love is many times inconvenient and uncomfortable. To forgive the unlovable is truly difficult. But if you are living in God’s love, then this kind of love can be seen in our life. To feed our physically sick loved ones are truly inconvenient. But if you want to show them God’s love, then you must learn to sacrifice. To lead and counsel people are sometimes physically draining. But if you are living in God’s love, then you will not experience this exhaustion easily.
3. Living in God’s Love is Taking Action
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18, NIV1984
Love without action is simply hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the claim to have a belief (like love) but does not conform or comply with it. As the classic lyrics of the famous singer Frank Sinatra states, Love and marriage, love and marriage, Go together like a horse and carriage. Dad was told by mother you can’t have one You can’t have none. You can’t have one without the other.
It is also like saying love and action go together just like a horse and a carriage. You can’t have one without the other. As Andrew Rankin states,
“Without actions, there is no love, just love theory. Just as faith without works is dead and just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also love without action is dead.” Andrew Rankin, “Do Love: A Love Hack’s Path to Spiritual Maturity.”
Of course, we cannot apply these things apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only one who showed true care, real sacrifice, and immediate action for us to experience familial love, brotherly love, intimate love, and unconditional love.
We know what love is because Jesus gave his life for us. That’s why we must give our lives for each other. 1 Jn. 3:16, NIV1984