Love: The Biblical and Essential Meaning of the Word

To know how true love feels and looks, we have to know the true Source of love. Jesus showed us the most remarkable display of love when He died for us. That is the radical and genuine kind of love that He wants us to experience.

Have you ever asked the eternal question, what is love? What does true love feel and look like? How does it feel to love and be loved entirely and genuinely? Have you ever wondered if you will ever experience it? If I tell you, you can and you will, will you believe me? Allow me to introduce you to Someone who can love you just as you are, with no judgment and no holds barred. 

What is Love?

Perhaps one of the most complex things in life that people try to understand is love. How do we define love, and how do we perceive it? What does God say about love, and how does the Bible define it?

What is love according to human standards?

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines love as a constant or intense feeling of affection towards another person. It is perhaps the simplest way to describe it. But if you try to search for the meaning of “love” online, you will get various definitions. It seems that every person has a different interpretation of it. Maybe this is why some people keep searching for love from one relationship to another and still can’t find it. The way one person looks at love might be different from the other. 

In Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages,” he talks about how every person has a different way of giving and receiving love. Learning these love languages are said to help maintain relationships. And this not only applies to romantic relationships but even in families, or parent to child, or child to parent. 

So if we try to define love by human standards, we won’t get just one answer because the way one person wants to be loved and how they show it is different from the next. 

Definition of love according to the Bible

While love is complicated to us, the Bible is straightforward about it. 1 John 3:16 tells us that the way for us to know what love is is when Jesus gave His life for us. As His followers, we are to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters in Christ as well. Simply put, the Bible tells us that love is about sacrifice and being selfless. 

1 Corinthians 13 gives us a more detailed version of what love is from a biblical perspective. What it is and what it’s not. It teaches us that love is about showing kindness and patience; how it not envious nor easily angered. It also teaches us that it doesn’t bear grudges nor delight when bad things happen to others, but instead, it rejoices when justice and truth win. While the world teaches us that love means prioritizing our own needs, God’s Word teaches us that love is not self-seeking but putting others first. 

The biblical and essential meaning of love

While there are many verses in the Bible that talk about love, the most significant and influential meaning is this: God is love. 

God is love

God doesn’t just merely love; He is love. It is His being, His character, prioritizing, and therefore, the source of it. He is the only one who can love fully and ideally because love is who God is. If we do not know God, we will not know how it is to love genuinely. 1 John 4:8 says that anyone who doesn’t love doesn’t know the Lord. In understanding and drawing near God, we will learn how to love as He does. 

1 John 4:16 tells us that God is love, and when we live in love, God also lives in us. When we finally learn and understand the truth of God’s love, we can then know how it is to love others. Because God lives in us, love lives in us, and we can share it with others so they, too, would experience His love. 

Bible Verses About Love

The Bible teaches us about love in various scriptures. We had previously mentioned the “chapter of love,” which is 1 Corinthians 13, and here are a few more endearing and powerful verses about love:

1 John 3:17-18 – Loving is not only about saying it but in showing it in truth and action. If we see someone in need and say we pity them and yet do nothing to help them when we are capable of doing so, that is not love. 

1 John 4:19 – We can love because it was God who loved us first. 

1 Peter 4:8 – The scripture tells us to love each other deeply because loving makes us willing to forgive plenty of sins. 

John 15:13 – The most extraordinary kind of love that someone can show is giving his life for his friends. 

John 3:16 – God loved us, the world, so much that He gave His only Son to suffer and die on our behalf. It is so that whoever believes in Christ can have a life of eternity with Him. 

1 John 4:18 – There is no fear wherever God’s love is because fear is driven away by His perfect love. 

1 Corinthians 16:14 – Love should be the driving force of everything that we do. 

Colossians 3:14 – The most significant thing to do in our new life in Christ is to love one another. Everything is held together in perfect unity by love. 

What are the Different Kinds of Love?

The Ancient Greeks have different names for love, each about its type or kind. 

Agape

Agape is perhaps the highest form of love. This kind pertains to the love that God has for man, and that man has for God. It describes the selfless and unconditional love of the Lord for humanity. 

Eros

Eros is a passionate or romantic kind of love and was named after the Greek god of fertility. This kind of love is dangerous because it is also described as wanton. 

Philia

Philia is the friendship type of love. It is described to be platonic or devoid of physical attraction. 

Storge

Storge is the kind of love that shows natural affection among members of the family. It is the kind that parents express to their children or children to their parents. It can also be described as patriotism or allegiance, or loyalty to the same team. 

Philautia

Philautia is the kind of love that pertains to self-love. It stems from the notion that we must first learn to be mindful of ourselves to care for others. 

Xenia

Love in the concept or idea of hospitality is called Xenia. Sometimes, it is also translated to or called “guest-friendship.” It’s the kind that shows hospitality or generosity towards guests or foreigners. 

Whom Should We Love?

Human logic tells us that we should only love those who choose to love us. However, we will find in the Word of God a different command about whom we should love. We may find that it defies reason, but then again, Isaiah 55:9 says the God’s ways and thoughts are always higher than ours. It is why for us to understand God’s love, we must experience His love first. 

Love God

It is the number one and the greatest commandment of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). We are to love God with everything we have; all our mind, heart, soul, and might. But what does it mean and entail to love Him? 

Loving God means knowing Him, desiring Him, prioritizing Him, worshipping Him, and obeying Him. 

It’s hard to love someone without knowing the person first. It will be hard for us to understand His love without knowing the Lord, more so His commandments. It is why we need to spend time reading His Word. Joshua 1:8 tells us to meditate on the scriptures day and night for us to keep His commands. Psalm 119:11 also says to hide God’s Word in our hearts to keep us from sinning against Him. 

Loving God means worshipping Him and praising Him. It says in Luke 4:8 that God should be the only One whom we are worshipping and serving. Praise and worship do not only mean singing songs about Him, but it should be a lifestyle. It means that whatever we do, we do it to glorify the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:31). 

Loving God also means desiring Him. The psalmist had aptly put it in Psalm 42:1: like a deer that longs for a stream, so should our soul long for the Lord. Matthew 6:33 tells us to pursue first God’s kingdom and His righteous and holy ways. Everything else that we desire is just bonuses. He is our true treasure. 

To love God is also to make Him our number one priority and obey Him. When God is the first on our list, nothing and no one else should be competing for our attention. We cannot love both God and be worldly at the same time. In 1 John 2:15, God the Father is not in us if we love the world. We have to give the Lord our undivided attention. 

Putting God first means that we will obey and surrender to Him every aspect of our life. It is the true meaning of loving Him with all our minds, hearts, might, and soul. 1 Samuel 15:22 says that the Lord delights in obedience than sacrifice. He desires for us to follow Him because He knows what’s best for us. 

Love your Neighbours

What does it mean to love our neighbors? The second command of the Lord, as it says in Mark 12:31, is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Admittedly, it is a hard commandment to follow, especially when it comes to loving difficult people. It is why we have to understand and experience God’s love first to share His love with others. 

Once we experience His love, we know that His love is filled with grace, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. It is the same kind of love we are to show our neighbors and is the mark of faithful followers of Christ (John 13:34-35). 

Love your Enemies

Loving our neighbors is already challenging, but God still wants us to go the extra mile of loving even our enemies. You might think it’s ridiculous, but Jesus had already set the most remarkable example by dying for us while we were still enemies of God (Romans 5:10). And even while Jesus was in pure agony and death on the cross, instead of lashing out, He asked His Father to forgive those who hurt Him for they were unaware and had no idea what they were genuinely doing (Luke 23:34).

Jesus commands us in Matthew 5:44-46 not only to love our enemies but to even pray for those who persecute us. He further explains that God shows no partiality both to the just and the unjust, so we offer the same grace, compassion, and forgiveness towards them. We have to rely on God to do this, for this is quite a feat to accomplish. But just like what it says in Philippians 4:13, we can do all things through Jesus, who is the source of our strength. 

Why Do We Have to Love?

We all yearn to love and be loved, but what should be our motive when we love?

Why should we love God?

It will take us to the verses Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27, where the scripture states this is the number one and the greatest commandment. We are commanded to love God. 

Another thing is we were made after His image and His likeness (Genesis 1:26). He gave man the ultimate privilege of being able to think, feel, and love like Him. We can love because God made the first move of loving us (1 John 4:19). 

God also cares for us and is so mindful of us. As the psalmist says in Psalm 8:4-6, God cares for us so much that He made us just a bit lower than the angels and even crowned us with glory and honor. The Lord even made us rulers over His creation! Not only that, He wants us to live an abundant life (John 10:10; Romans 8:31-32). 

And finally, God loved us even while we’re still living in deep sin (Romans 5:8). He continues to love us even while we are being rebellious. He loves us despite our brokenness and even offers His rest when we get tired from the cares of this world (Matthew 11:28). How can we not worship a God who loves us unconditionally like that?

Why should we love others?

Going back to the verse Mark 12:31, this is the second greatest commandment of the Lord. Christ has given us the great commission that we are to go and make disciples of every nation. John 13:34-35 that the mark of faithful followers of Christ is how we show our love for others, showing no partiality. We are not only to consume the love of God for ourselves, but we are also to share them with other people to spread the hope and light of Christ. 

Why should we love our enemies?

Matthew 5:44-46 again states that both the kind and bad people experience the sun’s rising, and God shows no partiality between the just and the unjust. God doesn’t want us to live in bitterness and hatred. He doesn’t even want us to take revenge. The Lord will be the one to avenge us as God deems fit (Romans 12:19). 

All He tells us to do is to love and pray for those who hurt us. He wants us to hold on to what is good and to hate what is destructive(Romans 12:9) and, if possible, for us to live a harmonious with everyone (Romans 12:18). God doesn’t want a troublesome life for us, but a life lived in peace.

How Should We Love

How should we show our love to others and God? What are the ways we can show, express, or display our care and affection towards others?

What are the different kinds of love languages?

First off, let us learn about the love languages. Dr. Gary Chapman is the author of the book “The Five Love Languages.” where he discusses ways how people show love and receive love:

  1. Words of Affirmation – This is the way of expressing love through affirming words, encouragement, or praises. If this is a person’s primary love language, they love to give out compliments, motivation, and kind words. They also love receiving well wishes and affirmations that they are doing great. 
  2. Quality Time – Those who resonate with this love undivided attention from their loved ones. Active listening, eye contact during conversation, no cellphones or other distractions mean a lot to them. They feel most loved when their loved ones remain focused and present when spending time with them. 
  3. Physical Touch – People who identify with this love physical display of affection. They also express their feelings through touch or hugs, cuddles, or holding hands.
  4. Acts of Service – These people love to serve their loved ones. They would cook for them, clean, do the dishes, and help out. They find satisfaction in serving, and they love it when other people do the same for them, even minor acts of service. 
  5. Receiving Gifts – It doesn’t matter how big or small, how fancy or simple the gift is. The people who identify with this love language think more of the thought behind the token. They feel valued because their loved one has put some thought into giving them a gift. They, too, love giving to others and would show their affection through keepsakes.

How to discover your love language?

Perhaps the best way to discover your love language is to ask yourself when you feel most loved. Is it when somebody spends time with you or does things for you without being asked? Do you feel most valued when receiving a gift or when someone gives you compliments? Do you feel secure and loved when you get hugs or when somebody holds your hand?

You may also want to ask and observe yourself how you usually show someone you care? Do you give presents for no particular reason? Do you like visiting friends and loved ones to spend time with them? Do you like giving hugs or holding someone’s hand? Do you like doing things for others like cooking or running errands for them? Do you like giving compliments and encouraging others?

These are some questions that might help you figure out what is your primary love language. 

Ways the Bible shows us how to love

Colossians 3:12-13 tells us that one of the ways to show love is to bear with one another and to forgive just as Jesus had shown grace and mercy and forgiven us. Philippians 2:4 also says that we are to look out for the interests of one another. It affirms what 1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love is not self-seeking. It all boils down to what Jesus said in John 13:34 that we love one another just as He loved us. And once again, that would mean we are to abide in Him for us to have the attitude of kindness, gentleness, patience, compassion, and mercy towards others. 

The Greatest Display of Love

Romans 5:8 tells us how God had demonstrated His love for us. And that is by dying on the cross for us while we were still deep in sin. We are undeserving, and yet Jesus did it anyway because of His great love for us. John 3:16 says that God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son to die in our stead. God knew that we wouldn’t be able to save ourselves because sin runs in our blood, so the Lord made way for us. And He did it all because He loved us and wanted us to have that chance of eternal life with Him. 

When Jesus said in John 15:13 that there’s no greater love than laying down one’s life for a friend, He walked the talk. He laid down His life for us to show us the most incredible display of love that we could ever experience. 

In Summary 

The world views love so differently than God does. While this world tells us to love only those who love us, God commands us to love even the unlovable. While the world tells us to be partial to the generally good and kind people, God tells us that we are all the same in His eyes. He shows no partiality. 

God shows us what true and unconditional love is. That no matter who you are, what your past is, how badly broken you feel right now, God still loves you just the same. He all wants us to experience that kind of love that we can never find in this world. All we have to do is come to Him, for He is always ready to welcome and embrace us in His loving arms. 

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Alex Shute
EDITOR
Alex Shute
Alex is a family man and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. His passion is to serve the global Church and bring people of diverse backgrounds together to learn & grow.

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