What is love, from a child’s point of view? Here are some actual definitions of love given by children...
- “When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.”
- “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.”
- “Love is when someone hurts you, and you get so mad, but you don’t yell at them because you know it would hurt their feelings.”
- “Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is okay.”
- “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”
- “Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.”
- “Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.”
- “Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.”
- “You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.”
In this next section of his letter, John gives us his definition of love. Listen for God’s word to you from 1 John 4:7-12…
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
John begins this section of his letter with a simple command, “Dear friends let us love one another.”
Time before time, when the world was young, two brothers shared a field and a mill, each night dividing the grain they had ground together during the day. One brother lived alone; the other had a wife and a large family.
Now, the single brother thought to himself one day, “It isn’t fair that we divide the grain evenly. I have only myself to care for, but my brother has children to feed.” So each night he secretly took some of his grain to his brother’s granary to see that he was never without.
But the married brother said to himself one day, “It isn’t really fair that we divide the grain evenly, because I have children to provide for me in my old age, but my brother has no one. What will he do when he’s old?” So every night he secretly took some of his grain to his brother’s granary. As a result, both of them always found their supply of grain mysteriously replenished each morning.
Then one night they met each other halfway between their two houses. They suddenly realized what had been happening and embraced each other in love. The legend is that God witnessed their meeting and proclaimed, “This is a holy place—a place of love—and here it is that my temple shall be built.” So it was. The First Temple is said to have been constructed on that very site.
Agape always thinks of the other and works for the other’s good.
The sun only shines, just as God only loves. It is the nature of the sun to shine, to offer warmth and light. And it is the nature of God to love. We are free to get away from the sun—we can lock ourselves in a dark room—but we do not keep the sun from shining just because we put ourselves in a place where it cannot reach us.
So it is with God’s love. We can reject it, but God keeps on loving us. No matter what our choices, God still loves. And because God loves us, a relationship with God is possible.
Now, John knows that to simply say “God is love” is very abstract. Therefore, he brings matters down to brass tacks. John says if you really want to know what love looks like, then look to Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus defines love. God demonstrated his love in Jesus. Supremely, God revealed his love for all people by offering himself as a sacrifice for sin in the form of Christ.
The acclaimed foreign film Three Seasons is a series of vignettes about life in postwar Vietnam. One of the stories is about Hai, a cyclo driver (a bicycle rickshaw), and Lan, a beautiful prostitute. Both have deep, unfulfilled desires. Hai is in love with Lan… Lan lives in grinding poverty and longs to live in the beautiful world where she works, but in which she never spends the night. She hopes that the money she makes by prostitution will be her means of escape, but instead the work brutalizes and enslaves her.
Then Hai enters a cyclo race and wins the top prize. With the money, he brings Lan to the hotel. He pays for the night and pays her fee. Then, to everyone’s shock, he tells her he just wants to watch her fall asleep. Instead of using his power and wealth to have sex with her, he spends it to purchase a place for her for one night in a normal world, to fulfill her desire to belong. Lan finds such grace deeply troubling at first, thinking that Han has done this to control her. When it becomes apparent that he is using his power to serve rather than use her, it begins to transform her, making it impossible to return to a life of prostitution.
Keller notes that in a similar way God’s contra-conditional love demonstrated in the sacrifice of his Son can transform us when we simply receive it. Keller asks: “Why wouldn’t you want to offer yourself to someone like this? Selfless love destroys mistrust in our hearts toward God.”
What should our response be to such a love? John says, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. This brings us right back to where we started.
John reminds us that no one has ever seen God. John is probably thinking of the story of Moses who asked to see God and God allowed Moses to see only his backside. Sinful human beings cannot, in and of themselves, handle a face-to-face encounter with a holy God.
However, John says that when we love one another, God actually lives in us and his love is made complete in us. Amazing! When we love one another, we have the privilege of thereby showing God to the world.
John Trent writes,
When I led a Young Life group, I did my best to round up kids who really needed to hear the gospel when we went to summer camp. Mark was one of those kids.
Bob Mitchell, the main speaker that week, called most of the shots—including when meals would be served. So “Mitch” was always talking with the cook.
The cook loved her work, but it was exhausting. She always looked tired. Whenever she talked to Mitch, he got up and gave her his chair—and a moment’s rest—while they discussed meal plans.
Nobody noticed Mitch doing this ... except Mark.
Mark hadn’t come to hear about Jesus. But when he saw Jesus’ love lived out in that simple act of kindness by the camp speaker, he began to listen to his talks. Later that week, Mark asked Jesus to be his Savior.
It wasn’t because of the messages, Mark said, but because of the love he saw in Mitch.
“If that's what it means to be a Christian,” Mark said, “I want to be one.”
I wonder: who is there in your life, or in mine, to whom we might “give up our chair” this week? Doing so might just reveal the love of God to a watching world.
 What Is Love—From a Kid’s Point of View, LightSinger, (accessed 3-14-02); submitted by Jerry De Luca, Montreal West, Quebec, preachingtoday.com
 Belden Lane, “Rabbinical Stories,” Christian Century 98:41 (12-16-81); submitted by Bill White, Paramount, California, preachingtoday.com
 Fred Rogers, Christianity Today (3-6-00), p.45
 Les and Leslie Parrott, Relationships (Zondervan, 1998), p. 172
 Canadian Edition, Time (11-23-02); submitted by Darin Latham, St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada, preachingtoday.com
 Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God (Riverhead Books, 2008), pp. 96-98
 John Trent, co-author of The Hidden Value of a Man. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 1