By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 Jn. 3.16)
What is love? In short, love is joyfully and willfully sacrificing yourself in the service of others for the purpose of seeing them blessed. This is what we see in the gospel and this is what Christians endeavor to do as we respond to the gospel. The Gospel is the most heart-melting and liberating truth. It models and motivates true love.
The type of love we have in the gospel is total acceptance even in light of full disclosure. God knows how sinful we are but accepts us eternally based upon the doing and dying of Jesus.
As has been said by others before, “We are more sinful than we can ever have imagined but we are more loved than we can ever have hoped.”
This type of love brings freedom.
- Freedom from trying to impress others—because we are securely accepted in Christ. We love out of acceptance.
- Freedom from trying to gain from others—because we have been abundantly satisfied in Christ. We love out of satisfaction.
- Freedom from trying to dominate others—because we have been arrested by grace and submit to Christ. We love out of submission.
- Freedom to sacrifice for others—because Christ has sacrificed for us. We love by sacrificing.
- Freedom to serve others, rather than ourselves, —because Christ has served us. We love by serving.
This type of freedom shows itself in the marriage. If love of the gospel is my compass then my marriage is not about ultimately about me and my needs being met by my spouse but about Christ meeting all of my needs and then me serving my spouse in kind.
This also intersects with issues outside of marriage. I don’t know how many times I have heard someone who was involved in sex before marriage saying, “But you don’t understand, I love her/him.” While this is popular it is also untrue. Love never takes it always gives. What they really mean is, “I want her. I need her.” The gospel flips this around for the purpose of serving and sacrificing; giving rather than taking; having rather than needing.
Contemporary understandings of love object to this and provide a vivid gospel contrast.
- The world says “love for the purpose of self” but the gospel says, “love at the expense of self”
- The world says, “what can I gain from you” but the gospel says, “what can I give to you”
- The world pursues love for the fulfillment of self, and is left empty. Christians pursue love at the expense of self and are made full.
The gospel teaches us that we are intimately known by the omniscient One and infinitely loved by the gracious One. This brings security and freedom. We need not use people to meet our needs because we are made full having been loved by God. We need not love out of insecurity because we are truly secure in God. We are free to love others out of the overflowing security of being loved instead of the nagging insecurity of personal need.
We can just flip a switch and “do this” it takes time marinating in and basking in the gospel of grace. This is why the Apostle John tells us to take our cues for loving one another from having been loved by Jesus. The gospel is the model and motivation of Christian love.