My three-year old niece, Jenna, has an expression that never fails to melt my heart. When she loves something (really loves it), be it banana cream pie, jumping on the trampoline, or playing Frisbee, she’ll proclaim, “I love it—whole world!” (“whole world” accompanied with a dramatic sweep of her arms).
Sometimes I wonder, When’s the last time I’ve dared to love like that? With nothing held back, completely unafraid?
“God is love,” John wrote repeatedly (1 John 4:8, 16), perhaps because the truth that God’s love—not our anger, fear, or shame—is the deepest foundation of reality, is hard for us grown-ups to “get.” The world divides us into camps based on what we’re most afraid of—and all too often we join in, ignoring or villainizing the voices that challenge our preferred vision of reality.
Yet amid the deception and power struggles (vv. 5–6), the truth of God’s love remains, a light that shines in the darkness, inviting us to learn the path of humility, trust, and love (1:7–9; 3:18). For no matter what painful truths the light uncovers, we can know that we’ll still be loved (4:10, 18; Romans 8:1).
When Jenna leans over and whispers to me, “I love you—whole world!” I whisper back, “I love you whole world!” And I’m grateful for a gentle reminder that every moment I’m held in limitless love and grace.
When do you find yourself feeling pressured to believe fear is greater than love? How might your relationships with others change if you believed you don’t need to be afraid?
The word love is used twenty-two times in various forms in 1 John 4:7–19. The repetition tells us it’s important. It’s used ten times as a verb, agapao (vv. 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 19), and twelve times as a noun, agape (vv. 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 16, 17, 18). Agape is used throughout Scripture to describe love between believers in Jesus as well as the love of God for us and the love of the Father for Christ.