Love… We hear the word all the time. Like me, you may use it too much…
I love those boots! I love the color of your top! I love hot cocoa… especially with whipped cream… Mmmm, whipped cream, I love whipped cream…
But we all know that’s not the best the word can mean.
What does the Bible have to say about love? If God is our standard, what should love look like? How do we recognize it when it’s extended to us? How do we extend it to others?
We’re beginning our exploration of the Fruits of the Spirit with Listen When He Speaks. First up, in this month of Valentine’s Day, is love.
The Most Important Thing
When a young man asked Jesus what is the most important commandment to follow, Jesus didn’t answer with a thou shalt not, He answered… love. The Greatest Commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, NASB). And the second, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, NASB). When we wholeheartedly love God first and love others, we fulfill the spirit of the law by doing nothing that dishonors God or others.
Love is important to God. It’s integral to His nature; it is His nature. “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8, NASB, emphasis added).
Love isn’t something we can easily wrap our heads around. There are so many lesser things we use the word for. And we’ve twisted it. We use it as a weapon, withholding it to get what we want or to punish others who have slighted us, or have hurt us with what they called love.
We say we love everything from our children to our dog to our favorite snack.
But do we?
I don’t love my next-door neighbor, friends, kids, and husband the same way
The English language lacks words for different types of love. The Greek of the New Testament does a little better.
Eros is the one we usually associate with Valentine’s Day. It would be bad if I had that for my next-door neighbor, if I want my relationship with my husband to work. It’s romantic or sexual love. But on it’s own, it’s not going to keep a marriage alive, either.
I can have phileo for my neighbor, and my friends, and my family. It’s affectionate and friendly. It wishes you well, but may not go out of its way to ensure your wellness. We could use more of it, but what we really need is agape. Unlike phileo, agape never expects anything in return.
Agape is God’s kind of love. It’s the love He wants us to learn. It’s risky. It costs. It doesn’t come naturally.
Agape is unconditional. It loves no matter what the response. It doesn’t say everything we do is okay, but it always says we are valuable.
Agape wants what’s best for its object. Since God is love, and His love is pure agape, He wants only what is best for us. But it doesn’t always feel like the best from our perspective.
Scripture tells us that Christians should be known for our love. We’re called to grow in it, as we grow in holiness. As we grow in Christ and let Him transform us, our hearts become purer. One thing I’m looking forward to when time ends and we enter eternity with the God who is love, is experiencing pure love. When Christ’s image is made complete in use, we’ll be able to love and accept love without self-interest or any other degradation.
In the mean time, we need to intentionally love others, and abide in Christ to grow in love and the other Fruits of the Spirit.
Listen When He Speaks
Our February theme for Listen When He Speaks is LOVE, the first in our series of the Fruits of the Spirit. Our suggested Scripture memorization is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a.
We’ll be looking at love throughout the month of February here on the blog. Receive a recap at the end of each month, with a dose of encouragement not posted on the blog, straight to your inbox by signing up here!
Don’t get caught up in cheap imitations of love this month of Valentine’s Day.
Read more posts about God’s type of love: