The book of 1 John coupled with the other writings of John flesh out a clear theology of God’s love for us and our love for others. As we consider how we should understand God’s love, and then as we are challenged to show and share God’s love, we can learn much from this Beloved Disciple. Although these foundational aspects of God’s love are not comprehensive (even for the Epistle), they are an attempt to represent the core teachings of John in this Epistle.
1. Love can be characterized by “actively seeking the good of the other person, even at the expense of my own good.” This definition is rooted in the original meaning and use of the word. It stresses several important elements of love. John repeatedly demonstrates that our love should be active. Also, this love is not mere sentimentality, but a desire to seek the good for another person. The definition also carries the important connotation of self-sacrifice which is a clear mark of God’s love, and is meant to be evident in ours.
2. We should stand in utter amazement at the love of God. John is writing this epistle, and at the beginning of the third chapter, there is this exclamation, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us (3:1).” It is an expression of amazement, as if this love that God has for us has come from a different planet. John seems to be vigorously drawing our attention to a love we have never seen before and could not imagine. This love has a result of us being made to be God’s children. We have a new nature, we are born into a new family, and we have a new family likeness.
3. We have a command from the beginning to love each other. John stresses this command in a few places (3:11,23; 4:21) and highlights a couple of important things. First, this is not a new command, but rather from the beginning. Even in chapter three, as he stresses that the origin of this command is ancient, he also points out that the bloody violation of this command has its roots in the first family as well. But also, he stresses that this is a clear command. This is not optional for the one who professes to believe. In stressing this longstanding command he is giving the next instruction about love, but not new instruction. He is going to the heart of what it means to follow God and delving into the heart of Jesus’ instruction.