“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (1 John 4:10 NLT)

John starts with the words, “This is real love …” so John is about to describe love for us. But first, he wants us to know what love is not. “This is real love: not that we loved God.” John is saying here that what we feel towards God is so wishy-washy, it can’t even be called real love.

So what is real love?

“… that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”

God’s love is described in terms of how he acts towards us. He “sent his Son as a sacrifice.” God doesn’t just say he loves us, he demonstrates it.

How do we know if someone really loves us? Mostly we know because they tell us and want to spend time with us. However, the real test is in their actions. If love doesn’t show up in a person’s actions, it’s not love. Women will sometimes stay in abusive relationships because their partner tells them they love them and want to be with them. But that’s not love. That’s control. You don’t persistently hurt someone you love. In fact, the opposite is true. We sacrifice for those we love.

When Paul gives instructions to husbands, he says: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

Love is described in terms of sacrifice. If someone is prepared to give up something precious for our sake, then we know he or she really does love us. God shows his love by his sacrificial actions: “He gave … his one and only Son” (John 3:16). God gave up the most precious thing of all, his Son—that’s an enormous action, an enormous expense, an enormous sacrifice so we can know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that God really does love us.

Whenever we’re tempted to doubt God’s love or goodness we simply have to think about the Cross. A God who would freely give up his own Son must really love us. He must consider us valuable. He isn’t planning to ruin us, his intentions are good.

How do we respond to this love?

Not by trying to repay him, not by trying to stir up our own love, but by receiving his love. John goes on to say, “We love (God) because he first loved us” (1 John 1:19). Our love for God grows when we think about how much God loves us and as we receive his love into our hearts. As we take the bread and drink the cup, let’s think and consider how great his sacrifice and therefore how much God loves us.

Let’s pray:

Father God, We feel overwhelmed when we think about your great love for us. There aren’t enough words to express our gratitude. The response you desire is for us to open our hearts and receive your love and so this day we do … we receive your love.

Thank you for the bread that reminds us of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross on our behalf.

Thank you for the cup that reminds us of the new life you came to give us—a new life of love, peace, and joy.

We are grateful for all you have done for us.


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