When we use the word “love”, what are we even talking about? What does “love” mean? What is “love”? An emotion? An action? An idea? It goes without saying that there are many different opinions on this issue.
So how can we know what love truly is?
Know its source. If you want to know the true, intended definition of something, consult its source. True, intended love is therefore defined by from where or more appropriately from whom it comes. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God…The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:7-8, 16, NASB95).
Love is not separate from God, God is not separate from love. It logically follows then that any expression or manifestation of love is a reflection of God– who He is. True love is “grounded in the nature of God Himself”. “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth” (Exodus 34:6, NASB95).
Know its structure. “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:9-11, NASB95). We know what love is because God loves us and revealed Himself to us. We are compelled to respond.
How do we respond?
Receive His love, appreciate His love, reflect His love. Love Him with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deut. 6:5). And love Him by serving others through love– loving your neighbor as yourself (Gal. 5:14). It is interesting to note that God, though He does not have to, provides us with a qualification for why we are to love others: “I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18, NASB95). In other words, “love because I love”. This also serves as a reminder that any expression of love toward others is a reflection of Him to be done for His honor and glory.
Let’s not do a disservice to God by labeling things “love” and talking about “love” in ways which are so far from the true nature and definition of love and do NOT reflect who He is.
Know its substance. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NLT07). Love may be expressed as an emotion, action, or idea BUT if that emotion, action, or idea is not patient and kind but jealous, boastful, proud, rude, selfish, unbecoming, irritable, disrespectful, distrusting, unfaithful…then it’s not love at all!
Love is an honest, humbling, and holy calling to be taken seriously, as we are to reflect God’s very nature. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:1-2, NASB95).
To answer the question, “What Love Is This?”: this love is from God to be manifested in us and through us in such a manner that genuinely reflects who He is and what He has done for us in Christ through the Spirit!
Love In Christ,
1. Martin H. Manser, Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies (London: Martin Manser, 2009).
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