What does the Bible say about Love?
I know that many of us wonder about the nature of love. What it is, how we know when we've found it... The purpose of this article is to discuss what the scripture says about love. We will explore what love is, and how we can know that God loves us. In addition we will look at how we should show our love both to God and to one another. I will rely mainly on the power of scripture to guide these discussion points. Before getting into the details, I want to stress that the best way to understand love is to spend time in the scripture daily. Only by spending quality time reading his Word can we truly understand the fullness of His Spirit and experience the depth of his love.
With that, let's see what scriptures have to say about love. We'll start with...
What is Love?
That's a pretty deep question, but fortunately we don't have to guess at the answer. The Bible says, in 1 Corinthians 13, that:
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
This is a pretty good list. Next time you think you're in love with someone, try using this as a checklist and see how far you get. I typically lose at the "patient" part, but I'm working on it. God gave us this scripture so that we will know what true love looks like. If we apply this to a marriage for example, how often do we fall short, and how can we make it more meaningful?. In my own life, I can't honestly say that I'm always kind, or patient with my wife, but I'm always aiming to be better. This passage is the ideal. it's what we should all strive for. But, does love even matter? Wouldn't we be just as happy without it? Here's what the Bible says, earlier in the same chapter I quoted above:
1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
So the Bible says that even if we have faith that is unshakable, or have a generous spirit, or can speak in many languages, it doesn't matter. If we don't have love in our hearts then we may as well not even exist. God created us to love. First Him, and then one another.
Does God Really Love Me?
The easy answer is "yes". But of course that does't really explain anything. Many know John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that none should perish, but have everlasting life". We're all familiar with the story of how Jesus came to earth as a man and took on the punishment, humiliation and death that should have been ours. But why? Why would he do that for us? It's certainly not because we're worthy of such a sacrifice.
The not so simple answer is "Because He loves us". The Word states that "God is Love". In this short, but powerful, sentence from 1 John 4:8, we understand that God loves us because it's His character to do so. Nothing we do, nothing we say can earn us more than that, and no amount of disobedience will ever cause Him to stop loving us. Why? Because He loves us, and His love is perfect. When I fall short of His desire for me, He still loves me...because He IS love, not because of what I've done, but because of who He is. This is such a simple, and yet unfathomable concept that I think it's one of the most confusing aspects of Christianity. Our society is predicated on "earning your way", and "pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps". Because of this, we gravitate toward the idea that love must be earned. The idea that nothing we do to make him love us any more than he already does, is very difficult to comprehend.
The opposite of this is equally difficult to follow...
No matter what I do, no matter how bad I am, no matter what a horrible mess I may make of my life, I can't make God stop loving me. That doesn't make sense from the perspective of the world we live in, but His Word says:
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
Our Heavenly Father loves us. He loves us with a love so perfect and so pure that we can't screw it up no matter how hard we try.
Now that we understand (as much as we are capable of understanding), God's love, let's explore what we should do with it...
How Does God Show us His Love?
Again, the initial answer is obvious (I'm really good at locating the obvious, if you hadn't noticed). He sent his Son to die, so that we might live. That in itself is an amazing display of love. The truly amazing thing, though, is that it doesn't end there. He showed us His love by sending his son to die for us. He continues to show His love by offering unlimited forgiveness when we don't live up to the sacrifice he made for us. Think about that for a minute. Not only does he still love us when we fall short, he continues to offer us forgiveness. Even when we make the SAME mistake over and over, he continues to forgive us. Not only does he forgive us, as far as he is concerned we are again sinless and blameless from the moment we truly ask for his forgiveness:
! John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
I can't even begin to comprehend love like that. I can forgive people if they do something to me. But if they do it again? The second time is pretty much my limit. Even if I do manage to forgive, I'll never forget what they did. I just can't bring myself to do that. But God does it, every day, for every one of us.
As if that weren't enough, he also offers us direction through a very dark and confusing world. He could just say "Hey, I sent my son to die, and I forgave your sins, you can figure the rest of it out for yourself". He could...But he doesn't. He gives us direction, and whatever we need to fulfill his will. Romans 8:28 says:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
And if that still isn't enough, He loves us enough to hear and answer our prayers According to Psalm 37:4:
Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Without getting too far off track, I do want to point out that this does not mean that we get whatever we want if we just ask for it. If we are truly delighting ourselves in the Lord, we ask for things that are in his will. For a more in depth discussion of prayer, and how they're answered, please visit here.
Now that we know how to recognize God's love...Let's look at what he wants from us in return.
Find a good Bible here, to learn more about God's love
What does God Want in Return for His Love?
There are lots of commands in the Bible. There are the Ten Commandments, there's turn the other cheek, and let's not forget the Golden rule. But practically everything God commands us to do falls into one of two categories. Loving and trusting Him, and loving one another.
The first one we do when we accept that fact that Jesus died for us, and that we don't deserve his sacrifice. Once you really understand that, it becomes easy to love Him and to trust that He is working in our best interest. In fact His Word even says so:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Following his commandments like "Love the Lord your God with all your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and to have no other gods before Him becomes easier once we simply learn to love Him and to trust Him.
Loving one another is simply an extension of loving Him. I John 3:16 says:
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
Do you see how these two concepts connect? We are told to lay down our lives for our brothers the same way Christ laid down his life for us. I don't think this is exclusive to just being willing to die. I think it means being willing to make sacrifices to help other people find their way. Whether that sacrifice is measured in money, or time, or in something else. We are called to sacrifice for one another.
If we live a life filled with the kind of sacrifice that God asks of us, a sacrifice directed not at Him, but toward others, we will truly find the meaning of love.
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