What Does the Bible have to Say about Love?
As we defined earlier, love is a strong feeling of affection, loyalty, and concern for someone. When studying love, the Bible is the perfect source. God’s love for us is the perfect example of love and therefore the perfect starting point to do a study on love.
The Bible is full of scripture on love. In my favorite translation of the Bible, the New International Version, “love” is mentioned 319 times in the Old Testament and 232 times in the New Testament, for a total of 551 times.
The Bible talks about love in many different ways from love for Christ, Christ’s love for us, loving others, and even provides a definition of love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 defines love as this, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” (New International Version).
These verses describe the characteristics of true love and found throughout the Bible in the life of Jesus and through God’s love for us.
There can be no talk on what love is without first understanding God’s love for us – a love that has given pathway to an eternal life. God’s love for us is so strong that He sacrificed His only Son, so that whomever believes in Him will not die but have everlasting life (John 3:16). How strong of a love is that?!?! I am a parent of two wonderful little boys and I do not think there is any way I could ever sacrifice either of my children so that someone else could live. However, God’s love for us is strong enough that He could do that. It is a love so strong, that as a parent, I cannot comprehend this magnitude of love.
Not only did He sacrifice His son, His love for us is so strong that he allowed His son to die for us even while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). Now, I already admitted to not being able to sacrifice my children for someone else to live – but to allow my child to die for a sinner… there is no way I could ever do that! I cannot even fathom that thought! How can God love us so much that He would allow His son to die for us? A bunch of sinners? That has to be the most powerful love that could ever exist. It is the true and ultimate example of what real love is.
Even greater than God’s ability and willingness to sacrifice His Son for us sinners, the Bible states that nothing is ever strong enough to “separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:37-39).
God’s example of love is overwhelming. It is a love no human being can truly comprehend. So, therefore, how are we to use God’s example of love to define and understand love for ourselves? It is actually quite simple – we know God’s love and so we must rely on the love God has for us, because GOD IS LOVE. (1 John 4:16). Relying on God’s love allows our love for each other to be complete, giving us confidence in our lives. While we are in this world, we are representatives of His love (1 John 4:17). We love ourselves and love others because of God’s abiding love for us. It is in response to His love for us that we share that love with all whom we meet from our family and friends to our neighbors or strangers to the person we share our life. When we understand God’s love and demonstrate that love, we reveal to others several things about who we are. 1 John chapter 4 gives six clear demonstrations of what we show others through love. In verse 7, loving one another demonstrates that we are God’s child. In verse 8, loving another demonstrates we know God’s love. Verse 11 and 21 says that by loving one another we demonstrate our obedience to God. Verse 12, by loving one another, we demonstrate that God indwells us. Verse 17 indicates that loving one another demonstrates our confidence in Christ. Lastly, verse 20 suggests loving one another demonstrates we are truthful. God also tells us why we should love one another. In verse 19 and 20, He says we should love others because He loves us. More importantly, in verse 20, God commands us to love another.
What the Bible has shown me about love repeatedly is that love is an action, not an emotion. In every example of love in the Bible, love is not used an emotional expression, but it an action that displays love – such as God sacrificing His Son, which was an action of love, not an emotion of love. Jesus Christ was devoted enough and loved us enough to give His own life (Romans 5:8), even though He did not feel like doing it (Matthew 26:39). Therefore, love is not simply a way we feel. A friend of mine, Dewayne Searcy, said this, the Bible has taught me that we must “decide to [love] even if you think they do not deserve it. Love is a decision, not an emotion.” The Christian Answers Network says, “Love is best seen as devotion and action, not an emotion.”
This does not mean that emotions are not involved in love and they are certainly criteria for love. Nevertheless, if we look closely at the Bible, we clearly see that true love is a devotion that leads to action; “dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with ACTION and in truth” (1 John 3:18). If you truly love someone, then you show it by how you act towards that person.
We can only truly identify real love based on the Word of God. God’s Word will show us when we have found real love. It is only when we match our relationship with what the Bible says about love that we become truly prepared to make that lifelong commitment to love. One of my best friends, Micky White, says this, “The Bible has taught me that if you place God first in a relationship, and build your relationship around His trust… love will conquer all.” We have to look at the Word of God, be completely honest with ourselves, and understand the level of commitment that comes from true love.
Let us SHOW our love with our ACTIONS as Christ has shown His love through His actions.