“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9). God’s love is self-giving, unselfish, and concerned with the well-being of His creation. People often love themselves, or perhaps love others to the brink of self-sacrifice, but nobody has loved us as freely, openly, and fully as God. By virtue of our creation God loves us (John 3:16) – after spending the time and energy to design us and put us in this universe, He is now doubly concerned over our spiritual well-being.
“He would not have made us only to ignore us or treat us with indifference… He is concerned not only to give us positive blessings of His good creation, but to remove the negative consequences of sin. Thus in terms of concern, God does not love us less now that we are sinners; He loves us even more” (God The Redeemer, Cottrell, p. 337).
It should impress us that God loves us so much in spite of our sin. It goes to show that even if I have nothing in worldly terms (because of hardships) and even less in spiritual terms (because of my sins), God still loves me. He loves us even when we are stripped of everything. Even though we are nothing more than sinners in our world, the love with which God loves us is incomparable (Romans 5:8).
This is, perhaps, the hardest kind of love to emulate because it does not necessarily come naturally. We do not always have a fond affection for those we are called to love unselfishly. In fact, our feelings might be quite the opposite, as Jesus instructs us to love our enemies and do good to them (Matthew 5:44ff). I do not always “like” my enemies, or have any affection for them, nor kinship as if we were on the same spiritual team, but I am expected to love them, nevertheless.
This is why it is so important to understand the difference between different kinds of love in the scriptures. Nowhere are we commanded to love everything our enemies do to us (of course), but we must express a selfless, sacrificial love toward them. This kind of love is what defines us and our faith, though, as we have already seen from John 13:34-35. It is how others will know who we are, and what sets us apart.