I have often said, the two most abused words in the English language are friend and love. Love, for example, is a word we toss around indiscriminately; I love – seafood, fast cars, sports, ice cream, the spring, etc. So, when we tell someone that we love them, what does that really mean? To be clear, there are different definitions of love. There are secular definitions, and there are Biblical definitions. This article will answer the question, what is Biblical love?
What is Love?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, love is (1) “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person.” (2)
“attraction that includes sexual desire: the strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship.” (3) “A person you love in a romantic way.”
These are secular definitions for love. They are based on feelings and emotions and can change. With this love, you can love somebody this week and not love them the following week. This type of love is the leading cause of the high rates of divorce.
What is Biblical Love?
Biblical love is different from secular love. Biblical love is a love that is sacrificial.
According to the Nelsons Bible Dictionary, love is “The high esteem which God has for His human children and the high regard which they, in turn, should have for Him and other people.”
In the New Testament, one of the Greek words translated as love is agapao (ag-ap-ah’-o). This definition is the love that is defined above. It is unconditional love. It is not based on feelings alone but is broader, embracing mainly the judgment and the deliberate consent of the will as a matter of principle, duty, and moral decency.
To love with agapao love is to love no matter what they say or do. This is the love God has for us.
Let’s look at some Scriptures to confirm this: 1 John 4:8-9
8 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” NIV
“God is love” love isn’t just one of God’s characteristics. Instead, love is God’s very essence. It is not simply one of God’s many activities; rather, all of his activities are instilled with love. For example, when He teaches or disciplines, He does so with love. On the other hand, because he loves, He teaches and disciplines. Since He is love, he can do nothing without love.
Therefore, an individual who does not love others has never known God.
1 John 4:10
10 “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” NIV
What we see here is God initiated the love relationship; individuals had nothing to do with it. After all, all humans were utterly dead to God — dead in sins and trespasses (Eph 2:1). But God loved us even though we were wholly undeserving of his love.
John continued, he loved us so much that he sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. The ultimate materialization of God’s love was established by sending his Son to die to take away the sins of all who believe. With the removal of sin, God removed the obstacle between Him and his people (Rom 5:1-2; Eph 2:18) so that He could live in His people and they could live in Him.
8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” NIV
The point: This is agape love demonstrated:” While we were still sinners,” despite our sinful, rebellious condition, God showed His love for us.
How do we Love God?
Again, the answer is in the Scriptures, John 14:15
15 “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
We love Jesus by keeping His commandments.
To love Jesus is not a matter of emotions. Although it involves emotions, it is not based upon emotions or feelings: feeling good today and loving Jesus, and not feeling good tomorrow and not loving Jesus. Loving Jesus is not a wavering experience, nor is it an up and down emotion. It is not a demonstrative love that fluctuates with feelings.
To love Jesus is not simply based on reason or intellectual commitment. Although it does involve the mind, it is not merely deciding that Jesus is the Son of God and adopting His teachings and morality as one’s standard in life. Nor is it not solely an individual living by His teachings and doing the best they can. It is not a matter of the mind alone and not a matter of disciplining one’s life to keep the law and its rules and regulations.
Nevertheless, to love Jesus is a matter of the heart and the spirit: an issue of an individual’s most vital part, an individual’s innermost being, all that they are. The heart is the core of an individual’s affection and will (devotion). The heart fastens and focuses our affection, will, and commitment to an object or a person. The core causes a man to will to give himself either to good or bad. To love Jesus means that an individual will focus their heart, affection, and will (devotion) upon God by giving and receiving the love of God. To receive Jesus is receiving the love of God. It means that an individual gives his affection and will (devotion) and all he is and has to Jesus Christ.
To love God this way is the greatest commandment. Matt 22:37-38
37 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 “This is the first and greatest commandment.” NIV
It is crucial to note that loving Jesus is loving God and is received by God. John 14:21 reads:
21 “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” NIV
Jesus said: “He who loves me will be loved by my Father.” When we love Jesus by obeying His commands, He will love us, and God the Father will receive us and love us as well. Therefore, by loving Jesus, we are loving God.
In summary, Jesus stated that his disciples-followers show their love for him by obeying him. Love is more than just charming words and emotional feelings; it is commitment and conduct. If we truly love Christ, we must demonstrate it by complying with what he says in his Word.
Practicing Biblical Love
We have seen what the greatest commandment is in Matthew 22:37&38;. Let’s look at the second greatest commandment in Matt 22:39-40
39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” NIV
Over and above the law, Jesus stated in 22:37-38 a second and similarly important law. This second law concentrates on horizontal relationships; dealings with fellow human beings. An individual cannot maintain a decent vertical relationship with God, a loving God, without caring for their neighbor. For this second law, Jesus quoted Lev 19:18: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The word “neighbor” is in reference to fellow human beings in general. The same love individuals have for themselves should be continued, but it should also be directed toward others.
Notice what verse 38 says: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The entire bible is based on love!
Let’s look at further confirmation of this in Rom 13:8-10:
8 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” NIV
This love is to be unconditional. The same Greek word (Agapao) is translated in this verse. This love for neighbors ensures a healthy relationship with God. Look at what it says in 1 John 4:7-8
7” Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” NIV
The Scripture calls for Christians “everyone …who has been born of God and knows God” (born again) to love one another. If we don’t love, we do not know God and cannot have a relationship with God because “God is love.”
The Bottom Line
Biblical love is profound. It is not just lip service but action—a commitment
to a friend, a spouse, a neighbor, and to God. We must obey the Commandments by loving God and loving one another; unconditionally!
Is it easy to love unconditionally? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But this is the only way we can have the Spirit of Christ in us, and as it reads in Rom 8:9, “…Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
Questions, comments, concerns, or experiences with Biblical love are welcomed below.