What Does 'God Is Love' Look Like Today?

Real love unifies people for Jesus’ glory by his power, and we can only love well when we are in Christ. His love points the way and makes the way for us to love each other and him better.

Contributing Writer
Jun 06, 2023
What Does 'God Is Love' Look Like Today?

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16). So often right now, we see the slogan, “Love is Love,” but that gives us no information about what love is.

We also hear in the Christian church that “God is love.” How does this help us to understand the nature of love?

Love in Scripture

Several verses in Scripture help us define love:

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love (1 John 4:18).

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5).

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:14).

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44).

Love is described in the scriptures above as:

  • Sacrificial
  • Trustworthy
  • Unifying
  • Patient, kind, enduring, and humble
  • Counterintuitive

Who Is God?

God is love, so who is God? “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4). God is just, faithful, and reliable.

Colossians 1:16 tells us, “All things were made through him, for him.” So, God is the Creator of everything. “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

This tells us God is close and powerful, and he sings over his children like a proud Father with exuberant joy. Exodus 34:6-7 explains that God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands.”

His love is vast, lavish, overflowing, steady, and full of mercy and grace. He will discipline his children, but he will not reject them.

The Love of God

Christ, though fully man, was still fully God and showed the world who God is. He demonstrated what God’s heart is like by the way he lived.

Although he knew the sins of those he met, such as the woman at the well and the thief on the cross, that did not stop him from inviting them to His Kingdom.

In other words, God’s love is not nice, tepid, blind, overlooking sin. God loves in spite of our sins and offers a way out from under the oppression of our sin through him: “The yearning heart of God delivers and redelivers sinners who find themselves drowning in the sewage of their life” (Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly).

Passages describing or demonstrating the love of God also describe what he wants our love to look like. Consider all of the features above, which only scratch the surface of God’s lavish love for his children.

We were God’s enemies, yet Christ overcame fear to sacrifice his life so that we could be restored to God. Dane Ortland puts it this way: “In the death of Christ for us sinners, God intends to put his love for us beyond question.” (Ibid.).

For God to love is to be himself, but for him to cease to love us would mean that he was no longer himself. God embodies love.

We are not God, so we cannot imagine a love like his. “Even the most intense of human love is but the faintest echo of heaven’s cascading abundance” (Ibid.). We imagine that God must grow weary of us because we know what our sin cost him, and we still sin.

It is in our nature to give up on people and to get tired of their behavior or their failures. We cannot imagine the “breadth and length and height and depth, [...] the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18-19).

We must be careful not to imagine that the Lord thinks and behaves as we do and instead let the truth about his enormous love transform us.

What Love Is Not

Secular definitions of love incorporate the themes above, being willing to take a bullet for someone; celebrating other people’s accomplishments; humility, patience, unity, and overcoming fear in order to act lovingly in difficult circumstances.

But secular love also insists on encouraging everyone to do what makes them happy, be nice, and only say kind things. None of these is part of the biblical definition of love.

For one thing, biblical love does not focus on self but on God. What makes one person happy might hurt someone else, but Christ does not choose the scenario that is beneficial to the most people (which is utilitarian).

He loves everyone by pointing everyone to the Father and inviting them into a redemptive relationship with him. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). He was obedient and calls us to obedience to the Father because God’s will for us is the best will.

Instead of obeying the longings of the flesh, we can submit to the plan of a Father who cares for us today and for eternity. If we set our focus on Jesus and seek God’s will, we recognize that God is not just waiting for us in heaven — he is with us right now.

Christ also told the truth about sin but with a redemptive purpose. Being “nice” is a little better than deciding not to be painfully honest if that will hurt someone’s feelings or cause them not to like you, even if someone is destroying his or her life.

Jesus spoke truth, which would change people while also offering forgiveness and belonging. His truthfulness was risky, for as he offended people, they rejected him and even sought to kill him.

His love was sacrificial even before he went to the cross, although that was his ultimate act of sacrificial love.

But his love was concerned with eternal life, not temporal comfort. Two images of risky love are Jesus’ exchange at the well with a social outcast and his conversation with Martha when she was upset with her sister Mary.

Jesus told the Samarian woman, “‘Go, call your husband, and come here.’ The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband;” for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.’” (John 4:16-18).

How was this loving? Christ was calling this woman away from temporal comforts to recognize his eternal promise instead and seek that. He was calling her to his Kingdom. In fact, he told her he was the Messiah. “Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he’” (v.26).

There is always a group or many groups in society who feel as though they have to fight to be included, recognized, and accepted. This lady belonged to one such group 2,000 years ago.

Jesus confronted her sin, he challenged her, but she was not disqualified from a relationship with her Savior. We are all sinners, and all of us are invited.

Martha was busy serving the people who came to hear Jesus speak while Mary sat at his feet. She complained, “‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:40-42).

His answer, though honest, was also tender. Mary had chosen well. If she was willing, Martha could also choose well. The “good portion” was in front of her, available if Martha would stop letting mundane concerns and people-pleasing distract her from Christ’s teaching.

A Love Like No Other

The love of God is available to anyone. No one is excluded. False preachers and social media personalities might behave as though there are exceptions, but Christ never did.

Any organization or person who implies that Christian love is available only to people who fit a particular profile have not understood the gospel, or they have encountered so-called “Christians” who do not understand or both.

Real love unifies people for Jesus’ glory by his power, and we can only love well when we are in Christ. His love points the way and makes the way for us to love each other and him better.

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:5).


For further reading:

Is it True That We Love Because He First Loved Us?

What Is Authentic Love?

Why Does God Love Me?

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/john_jennings

Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.


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