What the Bible says about As You Have Loved Me
(From Forerunner Commentary)
As believers, we have been personally called by God, which is a great honor. However, are we aware that God loves no one in the universe more than us—no one, including Jesus Christ? By what authority is that claim made? How about Jesus Christ Himself?
In His last prayer just before His arrest, Christ prays for “those who will believe in Me through their [the disciples'] word” (John 17:20). That includes each of us who believe in Christ because of the words His disciples wrote in the Bible. Referring to these believers in verse 23, He asks God to reveal to the world “that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”
Understanding the full impact of this verse hinges on the little, two-letter word “as.” One definition is “to the same extent or degree; equally.” “Equally” means no more, no less. This definition makes Jesus' request staggering in its implications! It means we can truthfully say that there is not a being in the universe—including Jesus Christ—whom God loves more than us. Every individual whom God has called can say the same thing. God loves us all at the same incredible, beyond-our-comprehension level.
This verse also shows Christ's unbelievable love for us. He has been with God forever, yet the Son feels no animosity that our Father loves us Johnny-come-latelies just as much, unlike the elder brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In fact, in His prayer Jesus is asking God to broadcast this truth to the world! Our Savior is preeminent in position and responsibility—but not in the Father's love. As the perfect Parent, God does not love any one child more than the others.
Yet, in the midst of our trials, do we believe Jesus Christ? Is there any bit of knowledge more important to have deeply embedded in our minds as we face life's many problems and challenges? We have the assurance of the depth of God's love for us from Christ Himself. That could be the most important single piece of information about God's love that we can know, and God packed it into one, two-letter word: "as."
Are we to be careful to live by every word, not to overlook even one of them, no matter how small? That question deserves a resounding, “Yes!”
These verses furnish Christians with critical marching orders and guidance while providing crucial insight into our Creator's nature—all centered around the word “love.” Twice in these three verses, John declares that “God is love.” He also implores us to “love one another” and to know God, and then he identifies God as the source of love. Furthermore, our Savior commanded His disciples, earlier in John 13:34-35 (see also John 15:12, 17), to love one another “as I have loved you.”
Consider that God has created humanity physically in His image (Genesis 1:26), and further, is re-creating those whom He has called into His spiritual image (II Corinthians 3:18). To that, we must add our standing orders to love God (Deuteronomy 6:5), to seek Him (Matthew 6:33), and to establish an intimate relationship with Him that we might become more familiar with the image that Christ came to reveal and that we are to become (John 1:18).
Consider also the following quote from John Ritenbaugh's 1992 sermon, “Do You See God?”:
We are beginning to see an application to you and me. Will God be working in our lives if we don't see Him? If we don't recognize Him? If we don't understand His purpose, what He is working out in you and me? I don't think so!
In like manner, in his 2006 sermon, “God, the Church's Greatest Problem,” he opined:
Since eternal life lies in the relationship with God, it is extremely important how frequent and accurate our thoughts about Him are. We can conclude that what one knows about the true God Himself and how one uses that knowledge are the two most important issues in life.
A strong relationship with God is critical to attaining eternal life, and the strength of that relationship depends upon an accurate understanding of who He is—His nature. To that end, we have the written Word of God to guide us as it reveals the true nature of God. Moreover, since the Bible teaches us that God is love and that our ability to know God will be determined by our willingness and capacity to love, it is vital that we understand the true meaning of love, particularly as intended by the apostle John's inspired writings. In fact, without this understanding, how can we possibly proceed with our marching orders to seek God—to know Him—and to reflect His will in our interactions with all mankind?
But, everyone is familiar with the concept of love, right? After all, virtually all of civilization is absorbed—even obsessed—with the idea of love. Throughout man's history, countless writers, performers, pundits, and deep thinkers have devoted much—if not most—of their respective careers trying to define and even display love. So, determining the meaning of this simple, four-letter word should not be too great a challenge, right?
Perhaps it is not as easy as one might think. In fact, if we study the world's most common usages and descriptions of love, we find that they have little or nothing in common with the divine nature of our Creator. Stated another way, we discover that John's use of the word “love,” as translated from the Greek word agape, has little to do with our modern, worldly concept of love.
Joseph B. Baity
The Nature of God— What's Love Got To Do With It?