We all talk about love all the time. We love our kids. We love our parents.
Most songs of any genre revolve around the concept of love.
But, have we ever stopped to ask the question: What is love?
And what does the bible say about love?
What is love?
I once talked to a man who cheated on his wife and eventually left his wife and daughters for the “other woman.” I asked him, “Why did you do it?”
His response is like many others I’ve heard from people in the same circumstance. “I love her,” he said. “I mean, I love my wife and my kids, but I love her more.”
Is it possible that he doesn’t have a good definition of what love is? Is it possible that maybe your definition of love is wrong?
Most of us define love as a “strong affection for another.” In fact, that is how love is defined by Webster’s dictionary.
I think we can do better.
Plus, it doesn’t even really work as a definition. I have been married for 24 years, and I can tell you without a doubt that my wife does not wake up every morning with an “affectionate feeling.”
If that was what she was using as her definition of love she would have left me years ago.
I have four kids and they are all in the dreaded teen years or past them. And no, I have not always had strong feelings of affection.
They aggravate me, they challenge me, and they ultimately leave me feeling the opposite of “a strong affection.”
Strong affection cannot be how we define love. That is why the Bible’s definition of love is so important. Here is where Scripture starts:
“God is love.”
Those are words directly from 1 John 4:8.
Instead of following our heart, (that is, determining love by some kind of internal compass) we should look to God as the definition of love. What we find is a God who defines love through sacrifice and compassion.
God’s love is defined in Jesus. God, who is perfect and holy, saw that we were sinful and imperfect. All of us have acted very unloving: sometimes out of ignorance and sometimes deliberately.
Yet, God loved us enough to look past our sin. He literally came to earth in the form of Jesus and gave everything, even though he did not have to.
Not only did he die, but he was humiliated, mocked, and exposed to one of the cruelest forms of death ever created by us. He did this so that he could restore the relationship that we broke.
This is love.
You are loved.
Regardless of how you define love, it’s important that you understand that you are loved.
Jesus died for you.
Regardless of your past or whether or not you have any understanding of God, He gave himself for you as a demonstration of his love.
Far beyond a feeling of affection, he loved you enough to die for you. You are loved more than you ever knew.
Bible verses about God’s love
When God’s love is described in Scripture, it is always associated with an action. The following are some key verses.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3|16
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3|1
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8|37-39
You don’t have to look very hard to see how much God’s love drives the larger story of the Bible.
Bible verses about self-love
Now, let’s talk about self-love.
This becomes more important than you might think. Many people would tell you how important it is to love yourself just the way you are. That is not actually a concept you find in the Bible. There is an important reason why.
You may have felt this conflict inside yourself.
I want to love myself and not beat myself up, yet at the same time, I know that there is a lot inside of me that is not good. I am selfish, I say things that I regret, I am driven by ego … the list could go on.
Scripture never tells us to build our identity on our love for ourselves. Our identity is meant to be built on God’s love for us.
Knowing all that we are, he still loves us and cares for us. I would argue that this is a much stronger identity to have. So, our love for ourselves should not be more than we love other people. The only verse we have about self-love in the Bible is this:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22|39
Bible verses about loving others
This is a huge theme in Scripture. How much should I love other people? Well, you should love other people just as much as you love yourself.
What does that mean? Well, when you make a mistake, do you forgive yourself? Do you tell yourself all the reasons you made the mistake and give yourself grace? You should do the same to others.
The Bible spends more time convincing us how to love our neighbor, and I think in that we discover how to love ourselves more appropriately.
Love your neighbor
Jesus says something that brings so much clarity to the Bible as a whole. He boils down the entire Old Testament, what he refers to as “the law and the prophets,” to just two simple commands.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”’ Matthew 22|39-40
Everything that God has ever commanded revolves around loving God more or loving people more. He makes the point that these two commands are really just one. Loving people is how we love God!
So no matter what we do, it is vital to our faith that we love people the way that Jesus loves us.
Love one another
The night before Jesus was betrayed and crucified, he told his disciples:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” John 13|34
He says something very profound in this passage.
It is NOT that people will know you follow Jesus by your religion or your church attendance. They will know you follow Jesus if you love the way that Jesus loved.
Again, not a feeling of affection toward someone, but loving people the way that Jesus did.
To understand love, you just have to read the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). With every story, every act, and every teaching, he is showing us what love really is.
Anyone who understands the love God has for them should be an expert in defining and displaying real love.
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