The Love of God
You probably know God loves you. But what does that mean? The Apostle John was so moved by the love of God for him that when he made personal reference to himself in the writing of The Gospel of John, he simply called himself, “The disciple whom Jesus loved.” John’s entire identity was no longer captured in his given name but in the ocean depth of God’s love for him. Of course, John is most famous for penning, “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16). John never got over the love of God, in Jesus, for him. How about you? Years later, even as an old man, John was still amazed by God’s love. He wrote,
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).
What is “perfect love” and why does it “cast out fear”? One way to think of it is that perfect love is limitless love. Our love stops and starts, ebbs and flows, but not so God’s love. There will never be a day when God runs out of love for you. I love the way the hymn writer put it,
O the deep, deep love of Jesus
Vast unmeasured, boundless free;
Rolling like a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me.
Underneath me, all around me
Is the current of Thy love;
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Thy glorious rest above.
What a perfect love! But there’s more. God’s love is “perfect love” because it is not a factor of our worth. Have you ever worried that if other people knew the real you they wouldn’t love you anymore? Maybe you know what it’s like for people to applaud you one minute and avoid you the next, to love you when you are lovely but withhold love when you are not. That is imperfect love. But God’s love is “perfect love.” Paul describes it like this,
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
The bottom line is this - God knows you inside and out. He knows the best and the worst. There is not one single thing hidden from His gaze. He knows who you have been and what you have already done, and He knows who you will be and what you will one day do. He sees your entire life from beginning to end, and He loves you without hesitation or reservation. If other people knew what God knows about you, they might turn away. But, not God! He didn’t wait for you to clean up your act, improve your performance, or even stop sinning.
John describes it this way, “This is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
“Propitiation” is just a fancy word for “satisfaction.” It means that God’s love is so perfect, that despite the fact that we didn’t love Him, despite the fact that He knows every unlovable thing about us, He loved us anyway and proved it by sending His Son to take the guilt of our sin so that we might receive His “perfect love.”
This means God’s love for you is not based on your worth or your strength or your loveliness. God’s love for you does not increase depending on your good behavior or decrease depending on your poor performance. You no longer have to worry about punishment for sin or judgment for falling short. All of that has been satisfied in Jesus. As a result, you will never know anything from God but “perfect love.” And that’s why John says, “perfect love casts out fear.” You don’t have to perform at a high level. You don’t have to preserve your reputation or keep up a false front. People may love you imperfectly, but God will always love you with a perfect love. Wow!