Characteristics in an individual may be so strong that they instantly come to mind when the individual’s name comes up. Mention one man and “egotistical” comes to mind. Mention another and we may think “stern.” Still another name may cause us to think “cold.”
God’s dominant characteristic is love: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). It was God’s love which opened the door to our salvation (John 3:16).
Love should naturally grow out of a proper relationship with God. To love is to participate in the nature of the Father. The loving response begins with keeping the commandments (John 14:15). Keeping the commandments is not ritualistic rule keeping but a means of pursuing the Father’s loving will for our lives. Jesus summarized all of the law and the prophets in one word, love (Matthew 22:36-40).
Failure to love one another indicates we do not really love God.
“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:9-11, 19-21).
Christians should not only love those who love them. The Father extended his love to his enemies and so should we. Paul wrote,
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:8-10; Matthew 5:43-48).
Men use the word “love” for acts as far apart as uncontrolled, lustful desire and complete self-sacrifice. The Greeks used four words to describe various types of love.
The first, eros describes an almost consuming desire for a person or thing. The second, storge, is the love of a mother for her own child, her flesh. The third, phileo, is an emotional affection one had for another. Thus, Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love. The fourth, agape, is the one most often commanded. It describes an intellectual commitment to the best interests of the object of its love. One who has this type of love will set aside his/her personal interests in order to provide for the needs of the other.
Those who love will think the best of others, be inclined to overlook their faults and patiently wait for them to change when they are in the wrong. Love makes burdens seem light and time fly.
Moses described Jacob’s thinking about serving to receive Rachel as his bride. “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her” (Genesis 29:20; 1 John 5:3; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
Those who are like the Father, the embodiment of love, should live a life totally dedicated to fulfilling others’ needs. They will reflect the nature of God.