The concept of love is something some of us find it hard to talk about. Life has a way of twisting and distorting those things that God intended to be unblemished. For many, love has very negative associations, and it’s hard to break those subconscious links. Hard, but not impossible. The apostle John writes about what love really is – and absorbing these truths can be truly transformative.
Read: 1 John 4:16-19
We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.
God is love. Take a moment to digest those three simple words. They have the power to challenge hardened hearts that view God through Old Testament eyes as a harsh, vengeful god.
God. is. Love.
When we understand this characteristic of God, it changes the lens through which we read the Bible. If God is fundamentally love, then He is also loving. A loving God, like a loving parent, wants the best for His children. He wants them to flourish, to grow, to be successful, and to turn to Him in times of need.
For many of us, life has left us battle-worn and scarred. It may also have left us fearful of parental figures. And this can cloud our view of God, especially when we hear Him referred to as “Father God”. For a long time after I became a Christian, I still carried with me a fear of the idea of God as Father. I prayed to Jesus, who seemed safer, and welcomed the Holy Spirit, but I resisted approaching Father God. I imagined Him stern and formidable, the wrathful God I read about in the Old Testament.
And then I came to this verse – God is love. I pondered it for a long time. And slowly, it began to challenge the way I saw my Heavenly Father. I began to see the Old Testament God through the lens of love. Like joining the dots in a dot-to-dot puzzle, I recognised the way that love undergirded everything that God spoke over His children throughout the pages of the Bible. Yes, He got angry, but because He wanted the best for His people. Yes, He challenged their sinful behaviour, but because He loved them too much to sit by and watch them destroy themselves. Through the pages of the Bible, I discovered a model of parenthood that had been missing in my life, and I was able to see that my twisted understanding of “Father” as harsh and violent, was far removed from the divine blueprint of Fatherhood.
John writes that “perfect love expels all fear” (v18, NLT). Only God’s love is perfect; human beings are flawed creatures and incapable of that perfect love, but God’s love has the ability to chase away the fears that might keep us from a close, dependant relationship with Him. If we let it, if we allow this perfect love to change our distorted impressions of “Father”, and even of “love” itself, we can walk free from the chains of fear.
God is love. Three words changed my life. Have they changed yours? If not, perhaps you need to linger longer, search deeper, and allow transformation to take place.