The Gospel according to John ends by identifying the author of the work as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” That word—love—pervades the writings of John. But what is love, and why did John mention love so frequently? Perhaps the reason for the numerous references to love in the writings of John are a direct result of his intimate knowledge of what love was as he experienced this love, the love of Christ, firsthand. In one of the most well-known passages of Scripture, John 3:16, love can be found as a key point: “For God so loved the world….” Not only did he love the world, but he willingly died for it, that is, for all those in the world who were created in his image. But why might he have willingly died for such a lost and sinful world? The answer to this question is found in John 1:12 and 20:21. Jesus died because his love for his creation urged him to make a way for them to become children of God by believing in his name and thus have forgiveness for their unrighteousness and transgressions.
John, being a member of Christ’s inner circle of disciples, knew Jesus in an intimate way, just as Peter and James did. Jesus poured his life into these three men in a way that was only possible because of the small size of the group. This model is an example that Christians today should follow as they seek to make disciples through small group study. This smaller gathering can aid building trust within the group as well as develop a deeper understanding of the scriptural truths discussed therein, thus leading to making disciples who then make disciples. Jesus’ love was his driving force to live as he did. He loved God the Father and lived his life accordingly. By doing so, he set a clear and explicit example for Peter, James, and John as to how love can and should motivate those who seek God and his truth. The same should be seen in Christians’ lives today.
This love of Christ depicted in John produced the High Priestly prayer in John 17 where Jesus prayed for his current and future disciples faith and protection from the evil one. Christians today must remember the power of prayer and seek to pray driven by love. Jesus reminded his disciples in John 10:10 that “the thief [Satan] came only to steal, kill, and destroy. But I [Christ] came that they [his sheep or disciples] may have life and have it abundantly.” Abundant life would, therefore, be the natural outcome of his love for them and their love for him coming into full fruition. This message is further echoed in John’s First Epistle in 4:7-9, which says that Christians ought to love one another because they know love incarnate, that is, Christ, whom God sent so that Christians might live through him. Love is the motivator of Christ and should, therefore, be the motivator of his true disciples as well.
Love is further seen as being an intrinsic characteristic of Christians in 1 John 5:1 where John claims that all who believe in Christ love both the Father and all who have been born of him. Again, love is seen as a motivator of obedience in 1 John 5:2-3. This love which Christ has toward his disciples and his disciples toward him allows them to overcome the world, that is, sin. A similar sentiment is seen in 2 John 6 where love is equated with obedience to Christ’s commandments. Even 3 John points to obedience in love by helping fellow Christians, though the connection is more implicit than explicit in this context.
Love permeates the writings of John and does so understandably. John was moved by a deep and intimate understanding of love, especially a love given and driven by Christ. He, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, wrote of the wonders and works that love can produce within the Christian. Christians today must not think of love as only a feeling but as something that calls them to action. Love drove Christ to the cross, so to what might love drive the true disciple?