There are several words for love in Greek. The one in which we are particularly interested does not refer to a quality which automatically arises in our hearts, otherwise it would not be necessary for Scripture to exhort us to nurture it or put it on. Some types of love spring up spontaneously. That kind of love is not an achievement or a virtue; it isn’t something with which we have consciously anything to do, it just happens. But Christian love is ultimately the power to love the unlovable, to love people we do not like.

Vine explains, “Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse of the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all, and works no ill to any; love seeks opportunity to do good to all men. In respect of this word as used of God, it expresses the deep and constant love and interest of a perfect Being towards entirely unworthy objects (See Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:4).

God hates sin but He loves sinners, and His love was perfectly displayed in His Son. The action of Jesus merely demonstrated that love, it did not change God’s attitude to men. Love is always known by the action that it prompts. It is measured by what it gives. When we look at God’s love in His Son, we realize that it is a love which holds nothing back. God made the supreme sacrifice when He sent His own Son. Beyond that He could not have gone. We see too that it is totally undeserved. There is a reason for our love, because we respond to God’s love, but the wonder is that God loves such poor, undeserving creatures.

How Thou canst think so well of us,
And be the God Thou art,
Is darkness to my intellect,
But sunshine to my heart.

Our responsibility is to respond to God’s love by keeping His commandments. “For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3). The first and greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37).

Christianity is not a submission to the power of God but a surrendering to the love of God. Our love will also be evident in love for others; for our neighbours, fellow Christians, even our enemies.