What is love?

In classical Greek, there were four distinct words for different kinds of love:

Philia - a reciprocal, deep friendship between two people, involving the emotions but based on mutual respect, with giving and receiving on both sides. It encompassed relationships such as brotherhood or sisterhood and was valued far more highly by the Greeks than the more basic, physicality of "eros".

Storge - a broad category of love, ranging from the simple affection felt between an individual and family members, friends, companions, colleagues or even pets, right through to a stronger sense of kinship and identity with someone else. (See 2 Timothy 3:3.)

Eros - a sensual or passionate love, often expressed physically or (as between husband and wife) sexually. The Greeks regarded it as a kind of "madness from the gods".

Agape - a profound, sacrificial love that persists despite adverse circumstances and was considered to be a mark of the divine. It was used by the apostle Paul to describe God's unconditional, undeserved love for humanity. It derives from an act of the will rather than an emotional response. (Ephesians 5:25)

God’s love - "agape"

God showed His love for human beings by sending His only, precious Son to become a human being Himself, born as a baby, living at a particular time and place on the earth and eventually giving His life for the human race. Because of this sacrifice, every person can also become a child of God. All any of us needs to do is receive that love. (1 John 4:8-10) God’s love is a love that is hard for us to understand because it is not dependent upon anything we that are or do.

God loved us passionately, even when we didn’t know Him and when we were very un-lovely. He saw the mistakes that we made and the messes we got into, but just loved us without conditions. Because of the strength of this love, He made a way (through Jesus) for us to get back into a perfect relationship with Him. It’s a place where we can know that we are totally loved, even if we can’t fathom why. We certainly don’t deserve it, but we have it. Just by believing that Jesus is God's son and accepting His love for us personally, we can begin to get to know God as a loving and adoring Father.

Jesus took the sin of the whole world onto His body on the cross - the Roman method of execution by crucifixion. He then offered Himself to God as a once-and-for-all payment for all sin everywhere. The price for our sin was paid on that cross and was received by God as being a payment that was acceptable to Him. So, because of Jesus, we have been forgiven and will not pay the price to God ourselves, for our own sin. All we have to do to receive this love is to put our faith and trust in Jesus and acknowledge Him as our Lord. Nobody will go to hell unforgiven, just unbelieving.

Our love for others

In his letter to the believers at Corinth (1 Corinthians 13:4-8), the apostle Paul says this about agape love:

  • Love endures long, is patient and kind;
  • Love does not envy, or boil over with jealousy;
  • Love does not boast or take the glory itself;
  • Love is not proud, rude or unmannerly;
  • Love does not insist on its own way for it is not self-seeking;
  • Love is not touchy, fretful or resentful and takes no account of evil done to it;
  • Love keeps no record of wrongs;
  • Love does not delight in evil or injustice;
  • Love rejoices in right and truth;
  • Love bears up under anything and everything that comes;
  • Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person;
  • Love’s hopes are unfading under all circumstances;
  • Love endures everything without weakening;
  • God’s love never fails.

Jesus Himself showed love:

  • He loved not His life unto death. (Revelation 12:11)
  • The love of God was shed abroad in His heart by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:5)
  • He overcame the world. (Revelation 3:21)
  • He had no fear. (1 John 4:18)
  • He had no sickness. (Exodus 15:26)
  • He lived in obedience to the terms of God's covenant with His chosen people. (Deuteronomy 28:1-68 and Deuteronomy 29:1-29)
  • Satan had no authority over Him. (1 Corinthians 15:24)
  • He never failed. (1 Corinthians 13:8)
  • He recognised who was behind His difficulties. (John 10:10)
  • He made Himself obedient to death. (Philippians 2:8)

Love your enemies

To walk in love in the way that Jesus did, means that you also love those who wrong you - those who you consider to be your enemies. (Matthew 5:44) You can only do good to those who hate you or wrong you if you see them as valuable and precious. (Acts 7:50-60; 1 Peter 3:8-11) Sometimes we have to look hard, but it is possible to find good in everyone! Don’t forget, the Holy Spirit is our helper.

When we are continually being filled with the Holy Spirit, this ongoing process produces fruit. One of the fruits of the Spirit is love. (Galatians 5:22-23) By allowing God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, to flow out of us, we show God’s love to others. People who are hurting are looking for special care, extra attention and unconditional love. It takes time because they have to be held closer and prayed with a little longer. Reach out and love someone in need, remembering that it is God’s love and grace that brought you through to where you are. With this in mind, we always find that we can help and encourage someone else who is going through difficulty or hurt.

When we walk in love we are quick to:

  • Repent (turn, as God shows us His ways);
  • Put God's word first, not our feelings;
  • Obey God's word;
  • Guard our mouths (Ephesians 4:31);
  • Fear God;
  • Not fear what people can do to us;
  • Not be in wilful sin (rebellion);
  • Give out love to the unworthy and selfish;
  • Develop all our talents so that we can be a benefit to those who have very little.

What Jesus said about love:

  • God loves us. (John 3:16)
  • We are to love God. (Matthew 22:37)
  • Because God loves us, He cares for us. (Matthew 6:25-34)
  • God wants everyone to know how much He loves them. (John 17:23)
  • God loves those who hate Him; we are to do the same. (Matthew 5:43-47; Luke 6:35)
  • God seeks out even those most alienated from Him. (Luke 15:1-32)
  • God must be our first love. (Matthew 6:24; Matthew 10:37)
  • We obey God because we love Him. (John 14:21; John 15:10)
  • Those who refuse Jesus don’t have God’s love. (John 5:41-44)
  • Jesus loves us just as God loves Jesus. (John 15:9)
  • Jesus proved His love for us by dying on the cross so that we could live eternally with God. (John 3:14-15; John 15:13-14 - eternal life is to know God now - John 17:3)
  • The love between God and Jesus is the perfect example of how we are to love others. (John 17:21-26)
  • We are to love one another and demonstrate that love. (John 13:34-35; Matthew 5:40-42; Matthew 10:42)
  • We are not to love the praise of others (John 12:43), selfish recognition (Matthew 23:6), earthly belongings (Luke 16:19-31), or anything more than God. (Luke 16:13)
  • Jesus wants us to love Him through both the good and difficult times. (Matthew 26:31-35)
  • Jesus wants our love to be genuine (from our heart). (John 21:15-17)

Jesus said that all of the commandments were given for two simple reasons: to help us love God and to love others as we should.

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