1 John 4:8, 16
“God is love,” (1 John 4:8, 16).
This is the basic difference between the biblical concept of love and our concept of love. The Bible defines love by the nature of God. We tend to define love by the nature of man.
To say that God is love does not mean that God equals love. Love does not describe God exhaustively. He has other qualities, such as wisdom and strength; but this does not mean that those characteristics in God’s nature violate love. God always acts lovingly, even in judgment.
Again, “God is love” does not mean that love equals God. Love is not an entity, having existence as an object, let alone having personality. To say that love and God are equivalent would deify love and make it some absolute concept to which God himself is subject and by which he could be judged. Rather, love gains whatever stature it has because God is that way. He forms the concept by his nature. He is the source of all true love (1 John 4:7, 19). Since God himself defines love, true human love is godlikeness (1 John 4:16).
God was not obliged to love by some external “ought.” Loving is the way he is. This is one of the greatest evidences for the Trinity. God the Father loves God the Son and God the Holy Spirit from all eternity. God the Son loves the Father and the Spirit, and the Spirit loves the Son and the Father. Thus by love they are bound, and only out of love for others was that unity broken at the Cross when, by the power of the Spirit, the Son assumed our guilt, and the Father turned away in judicial rejection from part of his very being.
The loving nature of God is the basis for his creative and redeeming activity. He created man because he is love and desired a being designed on his own pattern so that he could love that creature and be freely loved in return. When man rejected this loving approach of God, breaking that relationship, God continued loving because God is love by nature. And so we have the story of redemption. Love became incarnate. Thus all of life finds meaning in being loved by God and loving him.
By his life, Jesus demonstrated flawlessly how godlike love behaves, and in his death he demonstrated the ultimate proof of love. He was our model — we can now see how we are to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1-2). We now can see what it means to have the kind of mind-set that was his who “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:6-8, NIV). “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). Throughout the New Testament Christ’s love is given as our model: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
All of Christ’s life puts on display God’s loving character, but the Cross of Christ demonstrates the love of God more clearly than any other act of any other person in all history.
Christ himself is the perfect, living model of God’s character; but God graciously re-creates that character in other people who, in turn, demonstrate true love. In fact, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Pastor Son was . . . a mild, little man—less than five feet tall—whose two great joys in life were his two sons, Tong-In and Tong-Sin. During the war Tong-In, like his father, had refused to worship at the Shinto shrines and had been thrown out of school by the Japanese. After the war, at twenty-four years of age, he went back to high school. . . . In October 1948, a wild Communist uprising swept through his part of South Korea and Communist youths seized the school in a reign of terror. A nineteen-year-old Communist leveled a pistol at Tong-In and ordered him to renounce his Christian faith. But Tong-In only pleaded with him to turn Christian himself and try the Christian way of love. Tong-Sin, the younger brother, rushed up to save him. “Shoot me,” he shouted, “and let my brother live.” “No,” cried Tong-In, “I am the elder. I am the one who should die. Shoot me.” The Communist shot them both. . . . Two days later the uprising was smashed and the murderer of the two boys was caught and brought to trial. Pastor Son found him with his hands tied behind his back, about to be condemned to death. He went to the military commander. “No amount of punishment will bring back my two sons,” he said, “so what is to be gained by this? Let me, instead, take the boy and make a Christian of him so that he can do the work in the world that Tong-In and Tong-Sin left undone.” Stunned at first by the proposal, the authorities reluctantly consented to release the young man into the custody of the father of the boys he had killed, and Pastor Son took him home.
God graciously demonstrates his loving character not only in his eternal Son but in other sons and daughters in every land, in every time.
In summary, love is a warm affection, suffusing a disposition till it concentrates on others whether or not they are worthy of the gifts of love. Is that too theoretical? Then consider the attitudes and activities the Bible describes as godlike and the commands revealing God’s will—they describe the loving way of life. Is that overwhelming, perhaps confusing by its multifaceted complexity? Then look at Jesus. He is the complete demonstration, the full incarnation of love. But perhaps you need someone you can see and touch? Then choose an authentic Christian and watch him. Not too critically, of course, remembering that someone may be watching you, too. Consider these things and you will discover that God’s kind of love moves beyond feeling to take the initiative and acts to promote the welfare of another.
 Introduction to Biblical Ethics (IBE), Robertson McQuilkin, (2014), 40-42.