When John thought of God, he thought of love. In fact, he wrote, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:16 ESV) John also ties the love of God to the incarnation of Jesus: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10 ESV).
In his Gospel, John also reminds us that the incarnation finds its impetus in the love of God: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV)
Jesus, as Immanuel – God with us, incorporated God’s love physically. He showed people what the love of God looked like. He touched the untouchables, held the unclean, spoke to the outcasts. He refused to let merciless, unjust people represent God. He met people where they were, and loved them where they were. He taught, healed, cleansed, and released. Jesus loved as God loved.
Jesus even taught that the most important command – the one that wraps up and encapsulates all the Scriptures – is to love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
But, what does this mean for us today? Today, Jesus remains with us. He is still Immanuel – God with us, and he continues to demonstrate God’s love to us. Paul tells us, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5 ESV) and “The fruit (production) of the Spirit is love…” (Galatians 5:22 ESV).
Returning to John first letter, the author tells us that we cannot separate the love of God from our love for one another. Consider these few passages:
We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:14-18 ESV)
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8 ESV)
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:19-21 ESV)
The love of God – produced by the Spirit that dwells within us – drives us to love others. And, the absence of love for others – in actions – demonstrates that we are not submitted to the love of God within us.
Jesus, as Immanuel – God with us, loves us and loves through us. As we love others, we are showing that Jesus is still with us.