We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19 CSB)
It’s common to hear people summarize the Christian life in a simple adage— love God, love people.
This is a good sentiment. No doubt the church would be better off if people did more of that.
But “love God, love people” is not an accurate summary of the Christian life.
You know what Jesus used this adage to summarize? The Law. You know how many people the Law has saved? Zero.
The problem with this way of summarizing the Christian life is that it completely ignores what Christianity is primarily about. Christianity is not primarily about what we have to do for God, it’s primarily about what God has done for us in Jesus. Everything we do for Him is a response to what He has done for us. In fact, it’s only because of what He has done for us that we’re able to fulfill His requirements of us (Romans 8:3-4).
Christianity is the message that while we couldn’t love God and love people perfectly, God still loved us. He entered our world, fulfilled all righteousness, and while we were still sinners, He died for us.
By all means, teach people to love God and love people, but always do it in light of the fact that God loved us first.
When we get this backwards, Christianity loses its power. It becomes another works-based religion that emphasizes rules and morality. It motivates people out of duty, obligation, and guilt rather than love.
At Christmas, we are reminded the lengths God’s love is willing to go to rescue us. It is an overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love. In the words of Cory Asbury, “There’s no shadow You won’t light up, mountain You won’t climb up, coming after me. There’s no wall You won’t kick down, lie you won’t tear down, coming after me.”
The Christmas season should motivate us to love people more deeply, because at Christmas that’s what God did for us.