John has been stressing the importance of Christians loving one another. Given the importance of this love for each other, John takes the time to give us a brief but powerful statement about what this ‘love’ actually looks like:

‘... God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins’ – 1John 4:8 – 10,

John has also mentioned this previously:

‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us’ – 1John 3:16.

When John says that God sent his Son ‘as an atoning sacrifice for our sins’, he is telling us that God sent Jesus to earth to die as our substitute: to put himself in our place under the wrath and judgement of God, bearing all of our sin, guilt and punishment. Jesus Christ turns God’s wrath away from us by suffering it himself.

That is what God’s love for us looks like.

As the Scriptures testify:

Jesus, dying on the cross, cried out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ – Matthew 27:46.

‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree ...’ – 1Peter 2:24.

‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree”’ – Galatians 3;13.

‘He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering ... he was despised, and we esteemed him not ... He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him ...’ – Isaiah 53:3, 5.

‘...the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to ... give his life as a ransom for many’ – Mark 10:45.

The beloved Son of the Father was forsaken by the Father.

Here, in this love of God for us, we see:

The holy One, the Righteous One, there on the cross immersed in our sin and guilt.
The blessed One, cursed.
The Almighty Lord, powerless.
The Living One, the source and giver of life, dead.

Not accidently. Not unwillingly. Not as a helpless victim. But by his own choice. This is the greatness of his love.
We, with our limited understanding of love, cannot really grasp the utter greatness of this love of God for us, that moved him to such an extreme and terrible action. The whole Godhead – Father, Son and Spirit – were involved in this immense expression of love. [For the Holy Spirit’s involvement see Hebrews 9:14).

But, even though we cannot really understand it because we ourselves do not love like that, we can understand why John, and Jesus, command us, as the recipients of such a great love, to love one another. A life of love is the only appropriate response for those who have been loved with so great a love.
John has written very strongly about Christians loving one another. He has also strongly affirmed the immensity of God’s love for us, by referring to the fact that God sent his one and only Son to die for us as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

For those who identify as Christians, to not love contradicts the Christian faith which we profess:

To not love is contrary to the nature of the God whom we say we know – 4:7, 8.
To not love is contrary to the nature of the God who is the source of our new life – 4:7, 9.
To not love is contrary to the actions of God by which we are redeemed – 4:10.
To not love is contrary to the nature of the God who now lives in us – 4:12, 13, 15.
To not love is contrary to the love of God upon which we depend – 4:16.

Let us immerse ourselves in this amazing love of God for us; perhaps then we will be more able to love one another as he has commanded us.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2022