This is a big one.
Love is one of the biggest driving forces in the world around us. Love may be THE dominant force in the world. It definitely rivals power.
We use the word all the time. We love our family, we love our cars, we love our pets, we love this dessert, we love that movie. We love God and we love the way God loves us.
Do we really have any concept of what love is? Where have we derived our definition for love? Have we allowed the world’s idea, misuse and manipulation of love to affect how we think of love?
How does the world define love?
- “Love is when you don’t seem to know why you’re attracted to a person.”
- “Love is handing someone a loaded gun and believing he won’t pull the trigger.” “Spongebob”
- “If you love two people at the same time, choose the second. Because if you really loved the first one, you wouldn’t have fallen for the second.” – Johnny Depp.
- “We’re all a little weird and life’s a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness, and call it love.” – Dr. Seuss
- “What is love? Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.” – Haddaway
But, if the Beatles were right, and, love is all we need, shouldn’t we know what it is? Is it a feeling? Is it a choice? Is it strongly liking something? What is love?
If love is, “Baby don’t hurt me no more” then most of us don’t really love the people we claim to love the most since the people we most often hurt are the ones closest to us. Therefore, the people we really love the most are the ones we know the least.
If love is finding someone else with the same weirdness as me, then apparently I’m in love with everyone else who hates onions as much as I do.
If love is who I’m falling for next, then I’ve never really loved anyone.
If love is trusting someone won’t hurt me, that’s kind of like Haddaway’s love.
If love is not knowing why you’re attracted to someone, then love is not just merely physical impulses, but it’s stupid.
What then, is love?
To know what love is, we need to go to the one who created it and see how He defines it. We must used God’s definitions to define love. We cannot allow ourselves to veer off course and let our surrounding culture define love? Why, because in my lifetime alone, culture’s definition of love has drastically changed. What used to be love is no longer love. What is now love, didn’t used to be love. It’s a moving target.
But, it’s worse than just a simple moving target that’s hard to stake down. The reason the target is moving is just as concerning as the fact that the target moves. There are many different agendas out in culture who are driving the shifting definition of love. Their desire is not what’s best for you, it’s what’s best for their agenda.
We, not just when it comes to love but in everything, must first seek to know God’s truth. We must allow God to define love for us, and when God’s definition of love stands in stark contrast the culture around us, we must also have the courage to embrace God’s truth. Even when it doesn’t make sense to us. Why? Because God actually has our best interest in His heart for us. He is not trying to use us or manipulate us. His truth is the foundation for the things we long for in life: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control.
Also, God is love. (1 Jn. 4:8) If that is what God is, then wouldn’t He know best how to define it for us?
Ok, seriously, what is love?
The Bible actually has several different words for love.
In the Old Testament we have the words:
Ahab: To have affection for
Chashaq: To cling, to love, delight in, desire, long
Dod: To boil, to love, a love-token, lover, friend, beloved, uncle
Agab: To love sensually, amorousness, inordinate love,
Racham: To fondle, to love, to have compassion, mercy, pity
Agapao: To Love, Deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, dute and propriety. Of the head.
Agape: Affection or benevlonce, dear, love
Thelo: To determine, choose or prefer, be inclined, delight in, to love, to please,
Philadelphia: Brotherly love, kindness. Of the heart. (Other variations of this word, to love your spouse, humane…)
Bigger than we imagined.
All of the words above are translated love in different parts of the bible. Some translations will translate them differently, adding word to help add clarity (which, I personally prefer when they do this but I know others who don’t). So, some things become very important.
1.) When we’re reading our bibles, we need to remember they are translated from a language that is very different than ours. We don’t build words the same way words were built in Greek and Hebrew. In Hebrew, even the individual letters carried their own meaning. When you take the definition of the word and add to it the meanings of the individual letters, you get a much bigger idea.
For instance, the Hebrew word for love is ahava (אהבה), which is made up of three basic Hebrew letters: aleph (א), hey (ה), and vet (ב).
From these three root letters of a-hav-a, we can discover two root words.
The first is hav from the two letters hey (ה) and vet (ב), which means to give. The letter aleph (א) modifies this word making it אהב,which means I give, but ahav is also the Hebrew word for loved. (Jewishmag)
This Hebrew word, therefore, contains this tremendous truth: giving is fundamental to loving. (From: http://free.messianicbible.com/feature/love-and-the-hebrew-language/)
So, we need to do a little deeper digging to help find the meaning of the text. Which word for love is being used? Agape or Phileo? Ahab or Agab?
2.) We cannot use our one, culturally driven definition of love to inform our understanding of what the Bible means with the use of the word Love.
So, what is a biblical definition of love?
One of my favorite bible study resources is bible.org. There is a ton of great material there to help us really understand God’s word to us. So, let’s look at how love is defined there:
Love is the heart-felt affection of the Christian in response to the love God has shown toward us, especially in the gift of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Love is an affection which prompts the Christian to action. Love is first and foremost directed toward God and then toward others in an order of priority: God, family (especially our mate), fellow-believers, our neighbor, and even our enemy. Love subordinates the interests of the lover to the one who is loved. Love inspires our deliberate, diligent, self-sacrificial service to others, which is intended for their good, at our expense. (https://bible.org/seriespage/31-what-thing-called-love-romans-129-13)
Now, we’re getting somewhere. Love is the heart-felt action I have in response to the Love God has shown me through the sending of His son to pay the ransom that sets me free from the prison my sin created. It’s not just a feeling, but it is a feeling. It’s a feeling that leads me to action. What is the action that this feeling leads me to? First, to Love God with everything I am. Then to love others. But that’s not all. If we stop there we stop short of what love really is.
Because, we love in the way God has loved us. How did God love us? Sacrifice. God sacrificed His own son for us. The Son sacrificed his position in Heaven to walk among us. The Son gave his life. God sacrificed for the ones he loved. This is what love is. Love is sacrifice. It is laying down your life for God and others. “Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.”
While love is partly feeling, love is also deliberate. Love is something I choose to do and I keep on choosing to do. I keep on choosing to love by sacrificing myself because love is also diligent. And I do this, not for what I will get out of this person in return, but at my own expense.
Love is also action. Love is not just a feeling that makes me feel good about myself. That’s what too many of us have done with God’s love. We’ve hoarded it for our own benefit. But, becoming love – becoming God’s love – moves us to action.
The love which God calls for is a holy love, a love which hates sin and loves righteousness. The love God calls for is a sacrificial love. It requires us to subordinate our desires and interests, so that we may serve others selflessly. The love which God calls for is one which looks for long-term rewards rather than short-term pleasure. It endures hardship, suffering, and pain, for the benefit of others and for the service of the King and His pleasure. It is a love which takes risks and which shines forth when others are shrinking back. It is a love which responds to and reflects the love of God for us. (https://bible.org/seriespage/31-what-thing-called-love-romans-129-13)
Love is first received from God before we can truly love another. Until we have been “Rooted and established in Love.” we have no source from which to pour out love on others around us. That was Paul’s prayer for the church at Ephesus:
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
We have to be rooted and established in love to grasp “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ…” that we may be filled to the measure – which means – filled to the full of all the fullness of God. Why would we need to be filled to brim?
So that we have the power to:
“Live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Eph. 4:1-6)
God’s sacrificial love, poured out over us and filling us up to the brim is the power source for the life of love we are called to live. Without this filling of God’s love, all we have is empty religion trying to earn our own salvation and position with God – which is impossible.
16 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 and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. – 1 John 3:16-20.
Love is action. If love is not acting, love has broken down. And when we receive the filling of love that leads us to the feeling of affection for God, which helps us begin to understand the fullness of God’s love, which leads us to the deliberate pursuit of God and diligently living out the commands of God (“15 “If you love me, keep my commands. Jn. 14:15), then we our lives become truth. We aren’t just in alignment with the truth, but we become truth. We are a part of truth. And we are now better able to worship God (“24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” Jn 4:24)
This, not all the other rubbish the world is hurling our direction, this is what love is.
And, this love is better than life. (Psalm 63)