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How the Bible Defines Love (1 Corinthians 13)

Updated on May 3, 2017

How the Bible Defines Love


Can someone truly be taught how to love? I have asked myself that question over and over for several years now. Learning to love is something that the bible talks about in 1 Corinthians 13. I will discuss what love truly is. Love has the power to heal and make people feel good but it’s not always easy to display love. The definition of love is something different to probably every person around the world. 1 Corinthians 13 is very transparent, it shows that nobody is perfect.

Description of Love

According to Webster’s dictionary the definition of love means, “strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties or an unselfish loyal and benevolent, concern for the good of another: such as the fatherly concern of God for humankind.” There are so many definitions of love. The dictionary describes love as a feeling but the bible describes love as an act of service.

When people think of 1 Corinthians 13, they often think of it as a wedding scripture. The history of this letter that Paul wrote goes much deeper than a passage that is often read at ceremonies across the globe. Although this scripture means much more, it is very relevant to a marriage. When two people become one, it can come with a lot of challenges. The scripture says, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Marriages will have rough patches but you should always treat your spouse kindly. In relationships it is important to always tell the truth. Envy or jealousy is never good for a relationship, and provoking your partner is never a good thing. Marriage is about enduring and pushing through the not so easy times.

Love is not always a romantic thing. People love their children, family, friends, pets and sometimes objects. Love is something that should be freely given with no expectations. Giving love to the people in your life is an act of service. Many people wouldn’t do the things they do for others if they didn’t love that person. Love is something that humans crave. Children see their parents or people in movies and often want what those other people have. Love is something that is demonstrated. People do what they see and what they have been taught. If someone never witnessed love or received it growing up, they might display it differently than someone who was well loved as a child.

Different Types of Love

I want to explore the different types of love that are mentioned in the bible. Agape love is the most popular form of love in the bible. Agape love is the love that God has for his son and his people. “It is also used to depict the outwardly focused love God expects believers to have for one another.” Agape love is the example love. Agape love should be displayed towards neighbors and family. Agape love is also the most important kind of love that should be displayed in a marriage. Phileo love is a friendly love. This is the type of love that friends display to one another. Eros love means, “sexual, erotic love or desire.”

What Love Means to Me

Love is how I treat people and how I make decisions. My faith and relationship with God plays a huge role in the way I love others. Love isn’t just about giving it to others. Love is also something that you must give to yourself. Through the love of God, I’m able to love myself because I have peace in knowing that he made me. “True love, as explained in the Bible, isn’t focused on oneself and one’s feelings or emotions, but is instead outwardly focused on others —wanting to best serve and care for them.” Love is a service. Love is a gift. Love is a feeling. Love is kindness. Love is patience. Love is God, God is love.

Who Am I?

I am Karyn Lee, a 21 year old young woman from Oakland, California. I was raised as a Christian in a Baptist church. I started my personal relationship with Jesus when I was around 13 years old. Love has always been a huge part of my life. I grew up with my Mom and Dad showing me love and teaching me how to love others. I eventually learned about God’s love for me. My parents loved me so much and I realized that love is also a sacrifice. Sometimes you love someone so much that you put them before you. When parents are raising children, that is often the case.

I have never loved anyone romantically, so I can’t speak from that perspective. I can only speak mainly about the love that I have for my family. It’s amazing to me that I love my family so much that I would literally do anything for them. My Mother recently adopted a baby boy. I had to sacrifice time to help take care of the baby. During the time that I was taking care of him, I started to be affected when he was upset. Sometimes when you love others, you are affected when they are hurt. Love is a feeling but it is also a connection.

Growing up in a Black Christian church is a unique experience. It’s not always easy to love a stranger but fellowshipping with other believers is a part of being a Christian. People would often say that they loved me and I always would wonder how. As I have matured, I realized that it is possible to love people with the love of Christ.

Loving others can be hard because sometimes you put other people’s needs before your own. Love to me mainly means sacrifice but it comes with great benefits.

Have I Displayed What the Bible Describes Love As

I believe that I personally try to display love the way the bible defines it. I show love in my everyday interactions and encounters. Having a mild temperance also is a way to show love. The way that someone handles certain situations also defines love. “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” Displaying love takes a certain type of maturity.

Who Wrote This Passage

Paul wrote this letter to the church of Corinth. It was originally written to correct their abuse of spiritual gifts. The Corinthians were displaying dysfunctional behavior and needed to be taught how to show love to one another. Paul teaches that spiritual gifts don’t mean anything, if you don’t have love. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned,[a]but have not love, it profits me nothing.”

The church of Corinth was going through a rough time and Paul rebuked their behavior.

The church of Corinth was said to be a “troubled church.” The church was full of sinners and rebels. It is said by many that Paul actually founded the church of Corinth, but that belief has not been confirmed.

Paul is a person who should know a lot about the love of God. Paul used to be Saul, he was Jewish by descent but a non-believer of Christ. His main mission was to destroy Christianity. God changed Saul’s life. He gave him a second chance as Paul. It makes sense that Paul Wrote this letter to the Corinthians because he could relate to them. He knew what it was like to be a sinner. He knows that God can change your life. The way to change is by being taught and that is what he did. Paul wrote most of the letters in the New testament and 1 Corinthians 13 is very well respected.

The city of Corinth was a wealthy Greek city known for trading. It was also believed that Paul was a wealthy man.

The Healing Power of Love

Love can affect people in so many ways. Taking time out of a busy schedule to call a friend is a way to show love. Love is something that should be given freely with no expectations attached to it. “Paul has a one-word answer: love. Live in the tragic gap with love, with charity. Love is long on suffering. When our neighbor comes to tell us about his son in jail, about her mother who has cancer, about his mental illness, we must listen in love. Dip down into the tragic gap and listen. We will not overcome it, but we must stick with it, so that grace and love have time to show up out of the depths.”

I have witnessed the healing power of love. My little brother was a drug exposed baby, he stayed in the hospital for almost a month because he had with-draws from the drugs his Mom was on. He was underweight and had several health issues. When we brought him home from the hospital, we were given specific instructions. The doctors told us that he might shake during the night and they also gave us a list of things that we should do to make him more comfortable. Dealing with drug exposed babies can be a challenge because you never know what health problems can arise. When we brought him home we followed the instructions but we showed him so much love and attention. Every night we would hold him and pray for him. After only one month of being at home, he was already doing some of the things the doctor said he never would be able to do. It has been 3 years and he has defied all the odds that were against him. I call that a miracle. God healed him through the love that we gave to him. When people see him, they don’t see a drug baby. They see a happy, healthy, beautiful little baby boy.

Receiving Love

Showing love to the people in our lives makes a difference. Love makes people feel good. When most people speak of love, they talk about how they want to receive it. Maybe they give love but don’t feel like they get back what the put out. Maybe that person just wants to feel loved period.

That’s the hard part about love. Sometimes love has to be given with the intentions of never getting anything back. From a Christian point of view, God loves his people with no expectations. He loves the saint just as much as he loves the sinner. That is a task that is easier said than done. It’s nothing wrong with someone stating how they want to be loved but it is better to shape your mind to be a giver and not a receiver. When a person expectations are attached to love, disappointment often follows. When I feel love, I feel God. Love is a blessing from God.

Receiving love from a friend is a great feeling, knowing that someone thinks about you and wants to be in your presence is awesome. One often feels loved when they receive a gift or they get to spend quality time with someone they care about.

The love that God displays to his people is something that is so special. God never turns his back on his people like we often do to each other. I can rob a bank and God will love me the same way he did before. In my experience the love that felt the best to receive was the agape love God has for me.


1 Corinthians 13 is relevant to the times we are living in today. This world is so dangerous filled with killing and hate. Everyone can benefit from showing some love. Love is an action and so much more than an emotion. The main point of this scripture is that love is the greatest gift of the holy spirit. “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Love is the foundation of Christianity. Without love, I don’t know what Christianity would mean. God is love and God used Paul to teach what love is. 1 Corinthians 13 demonstrates how we should love, how we should act and how important love really is.

Works Cited

Campbell-Reed, Eileen R. "The Healing Power of Love in the 'Tragic Gap' (1 Corinthians 13:1-13)." Word & World, vol. 30, no. 1, 2010, pp. 91-97. EBSCOhost,

Klein, George. "Christian Love According to 1 Cor 13." Concordia Theological Monthly, vol.

30, no. 6, June 1959, pp. 432-445. EBSCOhost,

Scott, James W. "The Time When Revelatory Gifts Cease (1 Cor 13:8-12)."

The Westminster Theological Journal, vol. 72, no. 2, Sept. 2010, pp. 267-289. EBSCOhost,

Cox, Steven Lynn. "1 Corinthians 13--An Antidote to Violence: Love."

Review & Expositor, vol. 93, no. 4, Sept. 1996, pp. 529-536. EBSCOhost,

1 Corinthians. Holy Bible Words Of Christ In Red. Camden, New Jersey: Thomas Nelson INC., 1972. Print.

God, United Church of. "The Different Kinds of Love Mentioned in the Bible."

United Church of God. N.p., 08 Dec. 2010. Web. 02 May 2017.

"Love." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 02 May 2017.

"Paul FAQs." A brief guide to the Apostle Paul, and why he is so important -

Beliefnet. Beliefnet, Inc. and/or its licensors, n.d. Web. 02 May 2017. <>.


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