“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
1 John 3:16

What is love? Is it a feeling? An emotion? An act of kindness? Many of us are looking for genuine, authentic love and yet the answer is right under our noses. God, Himself, reveals to us what love is.

Many of us know John 3:16 by heart. It’s the quintessential memory verse and many of us have been reciting it since we were in diapers. But do we know an equally important verse found in 1 John 3:16? It’s a verse that’s just as captivating as the first. It says,

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
1 John 3:16

It’s a powerful verse that showcases what genuine love looks like.

How do we know what authentic love is? Look no further than to the cross. According to the verse, Jesus set the example with regards to what love looks like. Jesus “laid down His life for us” by choosing to die on the cross for our sins. We were the sinful ones. We were the guilty ones. We were the ones deserving of the death penalty on the cross. And yet, Jesus decided to take our place—literally lay down His life—so that we might live instead. It was the ultimate sacrifice and Jesus did it because He truly loved us. We know what love looks like today because Jesus is our greatest example of authentic and sacrificial love.

The verse poses a challenge for us who believe in Jesus. Since Jesus laid down his life for us, we are now challenged to “lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Jesus set the bar pretty high for what love looks like by laying down His very own life and we’re expected to the same for others. This isn’t easy for us to do. It’s hard to love other people more than ourselves. It’s hard to sacrifice for others. It’s hard to think of others first. But the challenge to emulate Jesus remains. If we truly want to love people the way Jesus loved us, we’re going to have to consider laying down our lives for them.

The verse that comes right after gives us helpful steps to begin loving people the way Jesus loved us. It says,

“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”
1 John 3:17

The Bible challenges us to help those in material need especially in light of what God has done for us already. So one of the things that we should do is be constantly on the lookout for brothers and sisters who are in need and begin to love them the way Jesus loved us—authentically and sacrificially.

How do we know what love is? Jesus showed us the way and we’re challenged to follow His example.