“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 John 4:10 ESV)
How would you define love? Is it an emotion or feeling that you get when you are around someone you adore, someone who makes you feel good just being in their presence? Is love an act of the will, a conscious decision to show someone kindness, compassion, mercy, and tenderness? When we say “I love you” do we really mean “I love me, and I want you”?
The Apostle John defines love for us saying, “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.” God defined what love means by demonstrating his love for us in Jesus Christ. When we were lost in our sins, unloving and unlovable, God loved us still, and sent his son to die for us (John 3:16, Romans 5:8). Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), then proceeded to demonstrated that love by going to the cross. During that same conversation in John’s gospel, Jesus also told his followers, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
Dr. Joel Beeke writes in his Epistles of John that “the great motivation for practical, Christlike living is the doctrine of the cross; hence, every failure to love can be traced back to a failure to understand the cross. When the cross of Christ grips us, everything in our world changes.”
If love has been defined in the cross of Christ, then our failure to love in the church, in our homes, in our community with a Christlike love is simply because either we don’t understand what the cross really means or we forget to that the cross should affect every relationship and every decision. Either way, our failure to love belies our failure to really understand the cross.
When we have been gripped by the Cross of Christ, when the beauty, tragedy, and grace of the cross really shakes us, our lives will never be the same. J.I. Packer writes “Christ as crucified is the great object of our live, or should be… in the death of Christ do his love, his grace, his condescension, most gloriously shine forth. Sin nowhere appears so hateful as at Calvary, and lust shrivels up in the Christian’s heart while he keeps Calvary in view.” If we keep the cross before us, we will learn to live like he lives and love like he loves. If we really want to be a more loving church, a more loving people, let us keep the cross of Jesus before us.