The Best of My Love Part 1 – God’s Love for Us – 1 John 4.7-12

Part 1 of 3 in the series “The Best of My Love”

1 John 4:7–12 (NIV): “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 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. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

Jumping to verse 16: 

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them”

(Pray and get out of the way)

It seemed fitting this Valentine’s season to approach the subject of love. If we believe anything at all about the Bible, we’d better believe this: that God in fact IS love. John says so twice in today’s passage. It’s hard to miss the deep current flowing across every page of Scripture: God loves. God IS love.

And because God is love, love is therefore the most sacred of all Christian topics, the most holy gift we can experience. Love is the central theme of our faith, greater than even hope and faith itself. Love is the one force that overrules prophecies and tongues, all knowledge and all mysteries… Love is what we are striving to become as God’s people. Strip away all the trappings of a good Christian life, and if there be no love at the heart of it all, we are nothing.

When pressed, Jesus himself summarized all the law and the prophets in this one word: love. A teacher of the law asked Him:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22)

In other words, every other teaching is built on the bedrock of love. Love God. Love our neighbor. Why do we follow the commandment to honor the sabbath and keep it holy? Out of love for God. Why do we not steal, kill, or covert? Out of love for our neighbor. And so on. Every command, to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, pray for those who spitefully use us – every command is rooted in the principle of love, either for God or our neighbor.

And yet, we also recognize that there are distortions of love; imitations that easily beguile us; shallow knock-offs that promise fulfillment in the moment but leave us empty in the long run. Valentine's cards are filled with emotional tropes, words that are recited once a year, whether the lived reality of our day-to-day relationships align with those saccharine poems or not.

In Biblical terms, along with all of creation falling, love took a qualitative hit after the garden. We experience love, yes, but it is something less than it should be. We observe love after the fall through a glass darkly. Now we give love not as the Lord gives, but as the world gives; selfishly rather than selflessly; to gain something rather than sacrificially. Because we are all wounded, the love that springs from our human nature is also wounded. Apart from God, to love in our humanness is something less than true love, and more like to blave or to bluff.

In that sense, we cannot begin to truly love God and our neighbor the way we ought unless our understanding and experience of love is healed. Our wounded love must be regenerated by the love of God. Our ability to love our neighbor, our spouse, our children, will always be less than it should be if it is not rooted in the holy love of God. Our ability to love God will always be selfish and avaricious unless it can be transformed into a new way of loving.

God’s love is “other”... It is greater than our love. It is stronger than our love. It is sweeter than our love. In every way, the love of God surpasses the love of man. Our love is a mere shadow while God’s love shines like the sun.

And so, this first message is foundational to the rest, because it is useless to talk of loving God or neighbor without first receiving a full transfusion of love from God. Yes, before we can rightly love God we must fully receive the perfect love of God. Before we can adequately love our neighbor, we must experience the depths of the love God has for us. 

In order to understand God’s love, we need to understand two key principles. First, God’s love has two sides. Second, God’s love is bigger than we think.

First, God’s love has two sides. 

One of the helpful biblical pictures we have to describe the love of God is a parent’s love for a child. We are all familiar with the concept of God the father, showing us “father-love”. But let’s not forget that God also shows “mother-love” to us. Remember what Jesus said when he approached Jerusalem? “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” (Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34) This picture of a mother-hen protecting her chicks is a very tender portrait of the mother-love God has for His children.

And so we see that the Biblical portrait of God’s love involves both father-love and mother-love. But what do we mean by that?

Moms and dads … they love differently, don't they? The nuances are vast, but if you will allow me to generalize, father-love expects, while mother-love accepts. Father love pushes us on while mother-love holds us close. 

I recognize and want to be sensitive to the fact that not all of us had good-good fathers or good-good mothers. But ideally, each of us would be blessed to grow up with both parents in a loving environment. And, again, ideally speaking, we would each be blessed with an abundance of mother-love that always accepts us as we are, and father-love that always expects us to grow BEYOND what we are.

We need to find unconditional ACCEPTANCE in the arms of our parents. But we also need their EXPECTATIONS in order to grow and mature.

This is a picture of the love of God. You see, at first, God’s love is mostly nurture, hugs, and kisses. This is the mother-love of God. But as time progresses, we experience the call of the father to grow in maturity and to become more than what we are. This is the father-love of God. 

God’s love for us both accepts and expects. Jesus both accepts us at our worst, and challenges us to give our best. God both reaches out to us as sinners, and calls us forth as saints. In one sense, we might say that the love of God touches both the sacred and profane in each of us. I’m not talking about profanity in the sense of dirty words, but in the classical sense of “outside the temple” - profanus, “pro” meaning beyond and “fanum” meaning temple. God’s love both draws us into the holy of holies, gives chase as we plunge into the depths of profanity. He who ascended is also he who descended. God’s love is the stairway that transcends holiness and brokenness, and He is both the Man Downstairs as well as the Man Upstairs.

If we want to walk in the love of God, we must first realize that God’s love both accepts and expects. 

When we neglect one or the other, we lose our equilibrium and fall into a ditch. On the one hand, if we emphasize the expectant, ascending, father-love of God and lose sight of his accepting, descending mother-love that meets us where we are, we fall into legalism, always trying to push ourselves and those around us into a graceless state of self-righteousness. On the other hand, if we emphasize the accepting, mother-hen love of God and neglect His expectant, father-love, we become like proverbial infants, always suckling the milk of forgiveness and mercy but never maturing into obedience and holiness.  

If we do not know both acceptance and expectation from God, but lean one way or the other, we have an incomplete understanding.

Of course, I’ve overstated it. Dad-love also accepts. And mom-love also expects. But I hope the illustration might be helpful. If we want a picture of God’s love for us, we must remember that His love both accepts and expects. 

But that is only half of the story.

We also need to know that God’s love is much, much bigger than we think. 

Balance Through Tension

To really experience God’s love in all its fullness, it isn’t enough to know that God’s love accepts and expects, we also need to amplify those two principles to God-sized proportions. Which is to say, we need to take the ideas of acceptance and expectation farther than we could possibly imagine. We must take them to heights and depths that are uncomfortable for us.

If you’ve ever ridden a bike, you’ve learned that it is impossible to balance while standing still. But once you get moving – and the faster you go – it becomes easier to maintain equilibrium. 

So it is with the principles of acceptance and expectation. 

The mistake most people make in their spiritual lives is try to keep balance by accepting and expecting as little as they can. Just a little bit of acceptance and a hint of expectation. But we all know what happens. Unless we put some energy into those pedals, we’re going to crash. 

And so it is with many of us as we receive the love of God. Because we are scared of losing our balance, we minimize God’s acceptance and expectations. But what we need is to crank up the volume on both!

In Ephesians 3:17-19 Paul says to Ephesians, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

In other words, God’s love for us is not puny. It extends beyond the highest of our heights and the deepest of our depths. We fall into the error of thinking God’s love for us is millimeter-deep, and his expectations of us are millimeter-high. 

No, no, no! Paul says. God’s love is so big you could never measure it. His acceptance when we blow it is inexhaustible; His expectation that we press onward is irrepressible. God’s love always descends lower than we could sink and lifts us up higher than we could ascend on our own.

What’s the lesson we need to take home? Don’t make the mistake of limiting God’s love… His love for you is deeper and higher and wider than you could imagine. No matter how far down you’ve fallen, He is there, and he will go lower if He needs to. No matter how high you have climbed, he is calling you higher and higher all the time.

One of the saddest mistakes we make is to underestimate the extent of God’s love. 

To finish, allow me to share an illustration:


I have created a simple exercise for myself to draw closer to understanding this seeming paradox of Holy Love. Like any good physical stretch, I can never quite get as far as I want, but I think this exercise gets me a little closer to understanding the Holy Love of God and its extreme mercy and truth. My prayer is that through this spiritual exercise, you might come to “know this love that surpasses knowledge.”


Imagine all the people in the world, every soul, lined up shoulder to shoulder in order from worst to best. On one end are pedophiles and serial killers – those we would all agree are the scum of the earth. On the other end are nice children and dreamers – those we would all agree are the good people of the world.

Now Christ approaches the lineup. He starts on the far end, with the worst of the worst. The master looks the most wicked man square in the eye and says,
“You are a sinner, broken and wretched. Change your ways, for the kingdom of heaven is just a breath away.”  

Everyone down the line agrees with this honest assessment from the Son of God – and they even applaud such a bold word of truth.

Jesus then moves on to the next bad person and so on down the line, saying the same, honest thing: 

“You are a sinner, broken and wretched. Change your ways, for the kingdom of heaven is just a breath away.”  

This is the extreme honesty of Holy Love. 

At first, the rest of the people in line cannot agree more. We applaud the master with each word fitly spoken.  We cheer when He tells the truth to the crooked politician, the slave trader, and the thief. Applause after applause as He speaks love’s hard truth that the sin-steeped need to hear. But as He gets closer and closer to their own positions in the line, the people applaud less and less. They realize that His message is not letting up in its intensity. He says to the man who watches too much TV, the girl who lies about doing her homework, the employee who naps at his desk those same, honest words: 

“You are a sinner, broken and wretched. Change your ways, for the kingdom of heaven is just a breath away.”   

Somewhere just left or right of center, it is your turn. He looks you in the eye and says, 

“You are a sinner, broken and wretched. Change your ways, for the kingdom of heaven is just a breath away.” 

There is little applause from the crowd now. Just disapproving looks and disbelieving groans.

On and on down the line He goes, speaking the honest truth to each equally broken member of Adam’s race. Next to the playground bully… then to the kid who snatches cookies from the cookie jar. And we get more and more uncomfortable as this love that cares enough to be honest continues toward the good end of the line. Surely someone must be good! It can’t be there is no one righteous, can it? Not even one

And yet, he continues on down to the very end – to a small child everyone thinks is as innocent as the dawn. Waves of anger swell down the line. Now people begin to boo Jesus. Everyone angrily protests, “Come on Jesus, not her! You call this truth? How could you be so cruel?!” Jesus has gone too far. Surely this truth is too honest.

But the master knows more than the crowd does – and so does the little child. He speaks those blunt words once again: 

“Little one, you are a sinner, broken and wretched. Change your ways for the kingdom of heaven is just a breath away.”

This is precisely what the Scriptures teach about humanity. Even the best of us is born in sin and strikes well below the mark. Where Holy Love dares to speak the truth to even the most seemingly innocent among us, surely our humanity forbids us. This love is too true, too hard, too … honest.

Add a line break divider

But to stop here would only be half the exercise. The stretch is not over yet. 

The master, ignoring the hissing crowd, takes the child in His arms and smiles at her, saying:

“I have always loved you and always will. Mercy is yours for the asking. Won’t you receive my love and be made whole again?” 

And thus begins the second part of this exercise, the stretch of mercy.

Sighs of relief are heard as the master begins to make His way back down the line, saying the same thing to the kid whole stole cookies, to the playground bully, and then to each of us. 

“I have always loved you and always will. Mercy is yours for the asking. Won’t you receive my love and be made whole again?”

But somewhere left of center, things begin to get dicey. One by one, He extends His embrace to more and more deplorable people. Onto the abusive father, then the pornographer, then the Auschwitz mastermind, embracing each one and saying those same, now shocking words: 

“I have always loved you and always will. Mercy is yours for the asking. Won’t you receive my love and be made whole again?”  

He continues down the line, and none of us can stomach it anymore. We are disgusted as He looks each rapist, each cold-blooded killer, each school shooter in the eye and says those words that make the good people of the world well-up with rage. 

Now nearly everyone agrees: Jesus is taking mercy too far. Surely mercy and the cross’s power should not extend to this depth of wickedness and cruelty. 

Still, the master continues down the line as we shake our heads in ever-growing disapproval, right to the bitter end. The second-to-last-last man in line is an amalgamation of every cruel tyrant in history – a despot a hundred times worse than Hitler, Herod, Pol Pot, and Pharaoh combined. Now we all seethe with anger as the Son of God extends his tender embrace to even this pitiful excuse for a human being. 

“I have always loved you and always will. Mercy is yours for the asking. Won’t you receive my love and be made whole again?”

Now the good people of the world have had enough. From their end of the line they are all – every one of them – screaming and yelling for Jesus to cease this undignified absolution. A chant arises in defiance of Christ, demanding first, “Stop! Stop!” And soon the chant changes to, “Kill! Kill!” Even the good boys and girls join the shouting, demanding an end to such a shameless display of unmerited favor. 

And then their shouts turn once again from “Kill! Kill!” to “Crucify! Crucify!” 

The crowd is in a rage; this mercy has gone too far. They want the Nazarene killed before He can reach the last person in line, the worst of the worst, and finish His task, once and for all. 

But the master continues, His face set like flint, undeterred in His resolve. He looks at the pathetic man standing in last place, the chief of all sinners. A religious hypocrite, sick with arrogance and smug in his grotesque image of himself.

The master embraces him with arms like iron bands and says to him, 

“Steve, I have always loved you and always will. Mercy is yours for the asking. Won’t you receive me and be made whole again?”


We might think we understand the Holy Love of God, but when the cards are counted we really don’t seem to have the stomach for it.

Holy Love from God to humanity takes both mercy and truth farther than human love ever would… or perhaps ever could. Yet this is the honesty and mercy we must show one another if we are to become true sons and daughters of God. 

horizontal rule

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3.1a, NKJV)

Let us pray:: You are a child of the most high. You are fearfully made. You are wonderfully designed. You are God's workmanship, built with all the care of a master craftsman, you are God's desire, knit together with all the tenderloving kindness of a cubby wubby grandma. 

Your day today was written out long ago as a day of victory. And so is tomorrow. And the next day. And each and every day you have left on this earth. May you walk in confidence that The Man Upstairs is also The Man Downstairs, ascending and descending, leading you to heights unimaginable and pursuing you to depths unfathomable.  Rise or sink, He is always beside you, before you, hanging around with you, underneath you to catch you, above you to pull you up, with you, surrounding you with love. 

His mother hen love for you will always accept and protect, his thundering father love for you will always expect and protect. You are His. He is yours. Be loved today. 

Service Times

Worship Service
Sunday @ 10:30am (English)
Sunday @ 11:00am (Spanish)

Women's Restoration Gathering
Monday @ 5:30-6:30pm

Men's Breakfast
Wednesday @ 7-8am

Eat, Pray, Love Bible Study
Wednesday @ 7-8pm (Supper at 6:30pm)

Bible Studies

Women's Bible Study
First Saturday each Month @ 9:30am

Bible Study (all ages)
Wednesday @ 7-8pm (Supper at 6:30pm)

Volunteer Opportunities


Joseph's Storehouse Emergency Food Pantry
Monday - Thursday @ 9am-12pm

Contact Us

(619) 342-1414

Physical Address

3310 Bancroft Drive
Spring Valley, CA 91977


PO Box 221
Spring Valley, CA 91977

Please send secure mail to PO box instead of physical address. 

© 2024 Spring Valley Community Church. Login