John returns to the theme of love. Love comes from God, and if we desire to be like God we too must love. Only those born of God can truly love unconditionally in any circumstance. It is natural to love when it benefits us or is easy; it is supernatural to love when times are tough or people are unlovable. Although we see in our world evidence that those not born of God will at times display sacrificial love, this only affirms that all people are created in the image of God and therefore have the propensity to show his attributes. But to truly love the “unlovable” and express that love in its fullness requires sharing the truth of the gospel and hope of eternal salvation. This can only be accomplished by believers. God himself exhibited this love when he sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins when we were his enemies, offering us forgiveness through his Son’s suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection.
Loving like God is something that definitely takes practice. As we follow God we grow in the fruit of the Spirit, one of which is love. But we can only grow in love when we are tested – when we are put into situations with people who make our skin crawl and our stomachs tie in knots. When you pray for that annoying person at work, the person who has hurt you or a loved one, or someone who is a legitimate enemy then God will change your heart into one of compassion, even if the person’s behavior remains unlovable. If we truly have a saving knowledge of God we will be able to see his image in everyone we encounter. This is truly God within us.
In the darkness of this world of sin - in all the sorrows that come now upon the race, and that will come upon the wicked hereafter - we have the assurance that a God of infinite benevolence rules over all; and though we may not be able to reconcile all that occurs with this declaration, or see how the things which he has permitted to take place are consistent with it, yet in the exercise of faith on his own declarations we may find consolation in "believing" that it is so, and may look forward to a period when all his universe shall see it to be so. In the midst of all that occurs on the earth of sadness, sin, and sorrow, there are abundant evidences that God is love.
- Albert Barnes