A sweet older lady sat in the middle of the sunlit room. Visitors gathered as she looked around the space lovingly. She spoke of the woman who lived there, and the children that woman raised.
One of the children was Billy Graham.
His mother’s caregiver and friend, this sweet lady had come to share stories at the old homestead (now a part of the Billy Graham Library.) Calling a little child forward, she asked his name. Then she recited John 3:16: “For God so loved JOHNNY, he sent his only son to die for him….”
She explained Mrs. Graham loved to recite the verse that way because “she wanted everyone to hear God’s love was for them.”
Knowing God loves us helps know what love really is. Placing my own name in John 3:16, I’m reminded of three things:
- God lovingly sent Jesus for me because he’s God, not because I’m good (Romans 5:8).
- God’s love for me is perfect love, which saves me securely (Romans 8:35).
- God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love (Romans 5:3).
Knowing God Loves Us Causes Us to Love Others
As the saying goes, “you can’t give what you don’t have.” When we know God’s love for us, we have the opportunity to share that love.
Christ offers this opportunity as a commandment when he says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). We can offer genuine, godly love to others because we know love…
…Cares About What Truly Matters.
“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).
Reading the greetings sections of Paul’s epistles often convicts me. Paul’s love sometimes manifested in prayers for people’s jobs or health or happiness, but he primarily focused on his regard for others’ spiritual welfare. He knew what really mattered and he fearlessly loved others on that level.
Likewise, God’s love is focused first and foremost on what really matters: bringing us into right relationship with God. Merely finding what is likable about us or giving us what we want isn’t the level God loves us on.
Knowing God extended his love to us, as Romans 5:28 says, while we were still sinners (and even now as believers struggling against sin) we then must love others in a way that really matters. We can fearlessly love others’ souls- and want to see their souls saved. Lesser levels of love don’t have to trap or limit us.
…Is Secure and Deep.
“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
God’s love for us is secure because of Christ. We can’t lose his love because our relationship with him isn’t conditional based on our performance. His love for us is also deep and affection. For example, in Colossians 3:12 we are called God’s beloved. The term is used many times and exemplified in God’s regard for us as his friends and children.
Our relationships with others carry risk of rejection, hurt, and sin’s other consequences. God’s love for us doesn’t carry those risks.
Since God’s love is sufficient, secure, and deep, we can love other despite the risks. Our safety and stability comes from the Lord, our refuge and our rock.
…Comes from the Source of Perfect Love
“You, being rooted and grounded in love…know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
There are times when loving others doesn’t seem to make sense. Others hurt us, reject us, or simply wear us out. Thankfully, when we hurt, reject, and wear on God’s patience, He loves us anyway.
In giving us the Holy Spirit, he ensures we’re able to “love anyway” too. He has connected us to the source of perfect love.
When we feel our hearts are running on empty, we know his fullness can fill up. When we’ve had enough and don’t think we can muster up love for someone else, we have the Creator of all the “someone elses” living in us.
One of the great gifts of God to his beloveds is this: we don’t have to be the source of perfect love. We already know who is, and he can love others through us.
God’s Love is Impossible to Keep to Ourselves.
Although the notion can seem basic when we’ve heard it often, it’s precious and helpful to remember:
“God so loved [you] that he gave his only Son, that [you who] believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
God’s love for us cost him dearly. As a result, we can love others freely.