God is Love
by Dr. David Jeremiah
The Bible tells us that God is love. The apostle John writes, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). He reiterates this truth a few sentences later: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (v. 16).
It is important that we avoid the common mistake of inverting the equation: God is love, but that doesn’t mean love is God. This inversion can lead us into at least two serious errors. The first is to believe that anything done in the name of love must be from God. But there are many false loves that bear no or little resemblance to the perfect love of God. These loves must not be equated with His love. The second error is to believe that the term “God” is simply a metaphor for love instead of the name of an objectively existing personal being. The Lord God is a person—a living, thinking spirit with mind, emotion, self-awareness, and will.
So what does John mean when he says that God “is” love? One thing is certain: he does not simply mean that God does nothing more than love. John is telling us that love helps define who God is—a personal Being whose every act is motivated by a pure, profoundly deep, sacrificial attachment and affection for every person ever created.
While love is a primary attribute of God, there are many others. He is all-knowing; He is everywhere-present; He is infinite; He is eternal; and He is just. . . . By saying that God is love, John is reminding us that we must not forget His love when we recall His nature.
Love is defined by God, comes from God, and is the guiding purpose of everything He does in creation. He makes the world because He is love. He forms human beings because He is love. He rules the universe in love. Everything we can say about Him rests solidly on that simple yet far-reaching word.
But before we can go much further in this discussion, we need to do some disentangling. Just as people tend to be confused about who God is, they’re also confused about what love is.
Counterfeit ideas of love are all around us. Kindness is often a counterfeit for love. Discipline causes pain, which seems unkind, so parents withhold it in the name of love. But authentic love will administer discipline to achieve a long-term good for the child. Sex is often misused as a counterfeit of love, causing unmarried couples to be led down the dead-end path of temporary sensations instead of the harder but more rewarding path of long-term commitment.
We cannot afford to make broad judgments about love or God from our limited personal experiences. Nor can we look to pop culture as any kind of authority—songs or sitcoms or soaps or cinema. We might as well get our idea of the beach from a child’s sandbox. Better to go to the ultimate authority on both God and love. The Bible must be our guide.
In the Bible the love of God is like a multifaceted diamond: Each glistening facet reveals some blindingly beautiful truth about God. For, this is where the quest for love leads—to an encounter with God Himself. To begin to understand love, we must begin to understand God. And to begin to understand God, we must begin in no other place than the revelation of His love in the Bible.