Love is a favorite topic for many in the religious world. While it is good for us to talk about love, John warns us not to stop there. “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 Jn. 3:18) That is, we must display love in our actions, not just our words.
In the surrounding context, John is pointing to the examples of God and Jesus as motivation for us to show love. God demonstrated His love by sending His Son to die on the cross (1 Jn. 4:10). Jesus demonstrated His love by willingly sacrificing His life for us (1 Jn. 3:16). So John says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 Jn. 4:11)
It is important that we demonstrate our love toward one another. When Jesus was asked what was the “great commandment”, He answered: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Mt. 22:36-37) John said that if one says he love God, but not his brother, “he is a liar” (1 Jn. 4:20). We cannot fulfill the “great commandment” and not fulfill “the second [which is] like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mt. 22:39)
But how do we fulfill the command to love God? Demonstrating our love for our brethren is part of it. But John explained how we are to love God. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 Jn. 5:3) Jesus said, “if you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jn. 14:15) It is not enough to simply talk about how much we love the Lord. If we truly love Him, we will obey His word.