“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8, emphasis added).
Love isn’t just a character trait of God; it’s His essence. It’s who He is. Until we understand love—really, truly understand it—we can never hope to understand God.
Unfortunately, that’s a harder task than it sounds. Love is a word that has been misused and misunderstood for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. Ask 100 different people to define love, and you’ll likely get 100 different answers. To some, love is a nebulous, indescribable feeling. To others, it’s a force we can’t control—something we can fall into and out of, something that ebbs and flows of its own accord. Still others have trouble distinguishing between love, lust and infatuation.
The Bible paints a much clearer picture of love. Love, it says, “suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
Those verses are important—but equally important are the words not in those verses.
We don’t read that love accepts all things.
We don’t read that love approves of all things.
We don’t read that love embraces all things.
Love has standards. It rejoices in the truth—and truth requires a distinction between right and wrong. It doesn’t think evil—but it knows what evil is, and it knows to avoid it. It will not rejoice in iniquity, because it knows that nothing good comes from iniquity.
Most importantly, love never fails. It endures. When everything else is collapsing, when the world we know is falling to pieces, love soldiers on unflinchingly and without hesitation.
God is love. Not the kind of love dreamed up by Hollywood scriptwriters, and not the kind of love crooned about on the radio. God is a love deeper and more profound than anything that could ever be manufactured in the mind of man.
The Greek word for “love” in 1 Corinthians 13 (as well as in many other important scriptures) is agape. In the New Testament, agape is a word frequently used to describe the love of God, intended to give us insight into how God loves us and how we are supposed to love others.
John wrote, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). Jesus explained, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10). To love—to show agape—requires action. God’s love is not nebulous. It’s not something that simply exists in some vague, intangible sense. It’s real, it’s active, and it never fails.
If you could see the end result of any action before you ever took it, would that change the way you live? If you could peer into the future and understand exactly how any given choice would affect you and the people you love, would you be more cautious about the decisions you make?
Seeing the end of the road before setting foot on the path would change everything. It would change what we do and why we do it. We’d make better decisions, lead happier lives and reap all the benefits that come with that kind of foresight.
Knowing that, why are we so quick to reject God when He offers us that exact gift?
God loves us. He wants the absolute best for us. His Son came and died for us so that we could have a place in His family. He is a merciful, all-knowing, all-powerful God with our best interests at heart, desiring to shepherd us through the confusing maze of life and into an incredible future.
But because He loves us, He’s not going to force that on us. He’s going to let us make our own decisions. He’s going to let us reap the consequences of poor choices. The Bible—His Word, preserved for us—contains all the warnings and instructions we need to live the best possible life. There’s nothing stopping us from deciding we know better and blazing our own trail—but do you honestly believe you can find a better route through life than the one charted for us by the God of the universe?
For the past seven days, you’ve been getting to know that very God—a God who is self-existing and unlimited, who shepherds us jealously and mercifully, who comprises a loving family that you were created to join. You’ve started digging into the Word of God and come away with a clearer picture of your Creator, and now you have a decision to make.
Will you keep on digging?
This Journey might have only lasted seven days, but building a relationship with God is a journey that lasts a lifetime. Every day is an opportunity to know and be known by the God who loves you, who has a plan for you and who has the power and foresight to bring it all to pass.
But it’s your choice. When God calls, you don’t have to answer. You can let the journey end here—let it all be nothing more than head knowledge and never act on it. That’s your prerogative—and it would be your loss.
Because if you keep moving forward—if you keep seeking after the truth and keep making it part of your life—you’re going to find so much more than knowledge. You’re going to find meaning. You’re going to find purpose. And because of that, you’re going to find fulfillment and direction and a richness and depth to life that doesn’t exist anywhere else.
In the back of your mind, though, there’s probably a nagging question:
If God really is all these things—if He really is all-powerful, if He really does love and care for us—then why is the world the way it is? Why does He allow evil to exist? Why do so few people seem to know and understand Him?
To answer these questions, we’ll have to set out on a second Journey—one in which we’ll turn to the pages of the Bible to tackle the “Problem of Evil.”
Continue your studies with “Journey 2: The Problem of Evil,” available from the Life, Hope & Truth Learning Center.