“Bear” was a gift for my grandchild—a heaping helping of love contained in a giant stuffed animal frame. Baby D’s response? First, wonder. Next, an amazed awe. Then, a curiosity that nudged a daring exploration. He poked his pudgy finger at Bear’s nose, and when the Bear tumbled forward into his arms he responded with joy joy JOY! Baby D laid his toddler head down on Bear’s fluffy chest and hugged him tightly. A dimpled smile spread across his cheeks as he burrowed deeply into Bear’s cushiony softness. The child had no idea of Bear’s inability to truly love him. Innocently and naturally, he felt love from Bear and returned it with all his heart.
In his first of three letters to early Christians, the apostle John boldly states that God Himself is love. “We know and rely on the love God has for us,” he writes. “God is love” (1 John 4:16).
God loves. Not in the pillow of a pretend animal but rather with the outstretched arms of a real human body encasing a beating but breaking heart (John 3:16). Through Jesus, God communicated His extravagant and sacrificial love for us.
John goes on, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). When we believe we’re loved, we love back. God’s real love makes it possible for us to love God and others—with all our hearts.
What do you find is most amazing about God’s love for you? How will you reveal His love to others today?
Apart from being known in Scripture as the son of Zebedee and the brother of James (Matthew 4:21), as well as one of the “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17), John has also been dubbed “the apostle of love.” Why this title? Several things could factor into this. In the gospel that bears his name, John describes himself as the disciple “Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 20:2; 21:7, 20). Furthermore, it doesn’t take long to see that love is a major theme of his writing. The noun and verb forms of agape (love) appear numerous times, the first time in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” The apostle who received love came to understand love as the defining characteristic of those in the family of God.