Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing devotions pulled from my study What is Love? based on 1 John 4.
To download a 14-day Bible study to accompany these devotions, click here.
If you want to read this series from the beginning, click here.


We ought to love one another. That’s what the Bible says. The apostle John specifically writes it in 1 John chapter 4. But have you ever wondered why?

We’ve been told all of our lives that we need to love each other. We even joke that we have to love but don’t have to like everyone. It’s like one of those rules of society that we accept because so many people tell us to do it but we never consider the reason for it.

Let’s look at that today. That is, why we ought to love one another. Jack Layton quote

We Ought to Love

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. ~Jack Layton, Canadian politician

John wrote in 1 John 4:11, Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

The original word John uses for ‘ought’ is opheilomen [o pha’ lo men], and ought is an excellent translation. It carries with it the word picture of obligation, particularly in a moral or legal sense.

When John says that we ought to love one another, he’s saying we have a moral obligation to love each other. It’s more than just a good idea or the best practice. God gave us Jesus, and Jesus accepted the cross. Since God so loved us, we ought to love one another.

But John doesn’t stop there.

Thankfully, he keeps going, further diving into why we love. He writes in verse 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.

Now, we need to stop for a moment, because the first part of this verse confused me for a long time. No one has ever seen God? I remember trying to reason this out because I knew that Adam and Eve used to walk with God in the garden. A verse in Exodus talks about Moses seeing God’s back. If we bring Jesus into the mix, then hundreds of people saw Him. And Jesus Himself said in the Gospel of John that those who had seen Him had also seen the Father.

The word John uses here for ‘seen’ means more than to just see with your eyes. It means to look intently. To observe something with continuity and attention. It carries with it the knowledge that what you’re looking at is unusual.

Think about the last time you saw something that you couldn’t quite figure out. Those moments where you stare intently until it makes sense to your brain is what John meant when He said no one has ever seen God.

But the second part of this verse has a nugget we also need to keep in mind.

If we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.

The New International Version, The Message, and several others use the word ‘complete,’ but the King James, Phillips and others use the word ‘perfected.’ I like the word ‘complete’ better because what John is talking about here is not the elimination of inadequacies or shortcomings. The word means to bring something to an end or to fully carry something out.

George Eliot quoteJohn is talking about the fact that when we let God truly live in us and when we truly love each other, we are showing the world that God has reached His goal of creating a personal and permanent union between Him and us.

Me loving you and you loving me is a visible representation of the reality of the cross and what God intended.


Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another. ~George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), English novelist and poet

Isn’t that huge? Read that again. Me loving you and you loving me is a visible representation of the reality of the cross and what God intended.

It’s so big that I don’t want you to keep going. I want to stop there and let it sink in all week. Write it down somewhere so you can reflect on it. Ask God to help you understand what that means so that it saturates deep into your being and you can’t help but let it overflow into your relationships.

Me loving you and you loving me is a visible representation of the reality of the cross and what God intended.



Enjoying this series? You can purchase the study that includes discussion questions to make this all very personal and help you grow in love. It’s downloadable, so print only the pages you want. And it’s only $2!

What Is Love? Bible Study

What is love? We can give examples of love and talk about being in love, but what exactly is it? Do we have a defining moment, an ideal expression to live up to or look for? The apostle John goes deep into love in 1 John chapter 4, telling us exactly what love is.

This 14-day study includes questions to help you define what you think love is and what God may want you to do or change. Download is printable and formatted for half sheets of standard paper (5.5″ x 8.5″).

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