For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)
WHAT IS LOVE?
John 3:16 is one of the most well known and beloved verses in the entire Christian Bible. It gives us an understanding of God's deep and endearing love for us and summarizes God's relationship with humanity and the way of salvation. But, what is love, and why did God so love the world? The first part of the question is complicated, and I doubt anyone can sufficiently answer it, and the second part baffles me when I think about it. Why would God so love humanity, which has messed up a gazillion times in the past and continues doing so today?
First, let's talk about love. Love is a complex feeling or emotion that has many characteristics. It can be the best thing that's ever happened to you, or it can be something that has only caused you pain and sadness. Pop singer and songwriter Tina Turner went so far as to say, "What's love, but a second-hand emotion." On the one hand, love can be beautiful, tender, and magical. On the other hand, it can be hurtful, resentful, or even lustful. We've all experienced love, one way or another.
The Apostle Paul gives us a definition of love. In his letter to the morally corrupt Corinthians, he wrote, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV). He also said that love never fails. That's the kind of love everyone wants to experience!
The kind of love that the Apostle Paul is talking about is an outward love directed toward others, not a selfish inward love. Such love doesn't always come easily and often goes against our natural tendencies. Yet God commands, "Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister." Do you need to show this kind of love to a wayward teen, an aging parent, a disabled child, a friend or co-worker with whom you disagree, or perhaps a spouse from whom you have become distant and with whom you are on the verge of falling out of love?
Ask God to help you extend more genuine love to others, especially to those who don't love you or may never even love you in return. You can love because God first loved you! Love is an action, showing others that you care. Will you give of your time and money to meet the needs of others? The more you extend genuine love, the more you glorify God.
All illustrations in this prayer plan are from The Wiedmann Bible, the longest illustrated Bible globally, containing 3,333 hand-painted images.