By Steve Handy
I like to reflect on memories from my childhood every now and then. I remember on hot summer days, my dad would hook up the big, bright yellow sprinkler to the garden hose. My sisters and I would run, jump and play in the refreshing water for hours. That bright yellow sprinkler shot a wall of water in straight lines high up in the air. Then, it oscillated back and forth, soaking the ground and anyone else in its path. After we had our fun, dad would detach the yellow sprinkler from the garden hose and rinse off the mud and grass from our little bodies before sending us in the house to report to mom.
Perhaps you have a childhood memory like this one?
As I reflect on this fond memory, it paints a picture in my mind of the reality of God’s love. God’s love is central to John’s theology. John makes three declarative statements regarding the nature of God: God is spirit (Jn. 4:24), God is light (1 Jn. 1:5), and God is love (1 Jn. 4:7, 16). Only the last statement he declares twice. For John, love is the key to knowing God (1 Jn. 4:8). Love is at the core of God’s nature.
What kind of love are we talking about?
The concept of love is tossed around carelessly like a rag doll in the culture of a lost world. It is often passed off as either an emotional-tingling feeling that ebbs and flows or some kind of standard of tolerance which overlooks sin for the sake of acceptance. But John defines love as what God accomplished through Jesus. John writes “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10). God the Father sacrificed by sending his one and only Son to us. Jesus, God’s Son, gave up His life as a sacrifice for us. “He is the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 2:2). This divine accomplishment reveals two aspects of genuine love. First, love is self-sacrificing. Proven love comes at a cost. The effects of real love makes a person place others needs first. Love does not insist on its own way. Love is not only self-sacrificing, but it seeks for the benefit of others. The Son’s sacrifice gave us a chance to have our sins forgiven. His willingness to lay down His own life favored us. True love is self-sacrificing for the benefit of others.
This kind of love is at the very core of God’s nature. No wonder John declares “God is love.” However, he is not implying the opposite is true: “Love is God.” The grammatical construction John uses in verses 7 and 16 refute this line of thinking. John’s point is this: God is the source of genuine love. He writes, “…for love is from God” (1 Jn. 4:7). Love flows out of God. It is like a big, bright yellow sprinkler. As the water flows from it, so love gushes out of God.
What do you need from God today? Do you need relief from the heat of life? Do you need to be refreshed? Or perhaps the world kicked-up its mud on you; do you need the Father to wash it away and make you clean again? If you do, why don’t you run, jump and play in the love He has for you!
Steve Handy serves as the Department Chairman of Global University’s Berean School of the Bible.