What is Christian love?
Contrary to what many believe, love, as described by God’s Word, is a primarily an ACTION (behavior based on personal decision), not a mere feeling or emotion, and certainly NOT a synonym for lust, infatuation or obsession. Love is goodness that one chooses to do on behalf of another, and it ultimately relies on faith and hope in God. True love is humble, righteous, forgiving, patient, generous, kind and willing to endure personal loss and suffering. It is even willing to remain anonymous, and often does among true followers of Christ.
Love is the opposite of self-absorption and selfishness, which are chiefly devoted to one’s own personal pleasure, benefits, welfare and profit. Extreme selfishness is one of the traits of Satan, the devil—the enemy of God and mankind.
Love is commanded of us by our Creator. Jesus Christ said,
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” —John 13:34-35 NASB
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. —1 John 4:11 NASB
Followers of Christ are also to love our neighbors as ourselves ( Luke 10:27; Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19; Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:31; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8).
For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” — Galatians 5:14 NASB
In 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, beautifully describes the importance and excellency of true love.
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. —1 Corinthians 13 NASB
“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” —1 John 3:18 NASB
Self-sacrifice unto death
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” —John 15:13 NASB
What are the different GREEK WORDS for “love”?
ἀγάπη —transliteration: agápē (agape) —meaning: love which centers in moral preference; Godly love; self-sacrificing love; God’s love; love for God —occurrences: 116 in Scripture
This is the kind of “love” that is described in 1 Corinthians 13 (above).
“Agape (love) is one of the rarest words in ancient Greek literature, but one of the most common in the New Testament.” 1
ἀγαπάω —transliteration: agapaó (agapao) —meaning: to love —occurrences: 143
- φιλία —transliteration: philía (philia) —meaning: friendship; affectionate regard; brotherly love —occurrences: 1 (James 4:4)
- στοργή —transliteration: storgē (storge) —meaning: empathy and affection, particularly for one’s parents or children —occurrences: none
- φιλόστοργος —transliteration: philostorgos —meaning: tenderly loving —occurrences: 1 (Romans 12:10)
ἔρως —transliteration: érōs (eros) —meaning: sexual passion (primarily); feelings of sexual arousal —occurrences in original Scripture: 0 (none) (However, the Greek word eros does appear in Old Testament translations from Hebrew into Greek: Proverbs 4:6; Esther 2:17; Hosea 2:5; 2:7; 2:10; 2:12-13; Jeremiah 4:30; 22:20; 22:22; Lamentations 1:19; Ezekiel 16:33; 16:36-37; 23:5; 23:9; 23:22)
This type of love can only be pure and beautiful within a committed marriage relationship filled with agape love. Outside of that, eros is distorted into sinful sexual lust and the penalties of sexual immorality.
What is LOVE FOR GOD?
“You shall love [ agapaó ]the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind…” —Luke 10:27 NKJV
As fallen human beings in a fallen world, this is very difficult (perhaps impossible), for even the most Godly to fully achieve on Earth. Nonetheless, it should be our ardent goal, as God commands. It can only be achieved through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and full surrender of ourselves to Jesus Christ—becoming willing slaves/servants of our Savior ( Romans 1:1). We should look forward with delight to eternal life with God, with our sanctified and glorified minds and bodies, when we will much more fully appreciate and love God and enjoy Him forever.
- Are you thankful to God?
- WHAT should we thank God for, and HOW should we praise Him? Answer
More about human love
- good works
- TRUE LOVE—What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer
- Why should followers of Christ love Muslims? Answer
- faith—in God and His Word
- What does God expect of you?
- SEX—Should I save sex for marriage? Why? Answer
- Sex, Love and Relationships
- bands of love
- Song of Solomon—love within marriage
- conquering fear
The word “love” in relation to Peter and Jesus in John 21:16-17
This word seems to require explanation only in the case of its use by our Lord in his interview with “Simon, the son of Jonas,” after his resurrection (John 21:16-17). When our Lord says, “Lovest thou me?” he uses the Greek word agapas; and when Simon answers, he uses the Greek word philo, i.e., “I love.” This is the usage in the first and second questions put by our Lord; but in the third our Lord uses Simon's word. The distinction between these two Greek words is thus fitly described by Trench:
“Agapan [agápē] has more of judgment and deliberate choice; philein [philía] has more of attachment and peculiar personal affection. Thus the ‘Lovest thou’ (Greek: agapas) on the lips of the Lord seems to Peter at this moment too cold a word, as though his Lord were keeping him at a distance, or at least not inviting him to draw near, as in the passionate yearning of his heart he desired now to do. Therefore he puts by the word and substitutes his own stronger ‘I love’ (Greek: philo) in its room.
A second time he does the same. And now he has conquered; for when the Lord demands a third time whether he loves him, he does it in the word which alone will satisfy Peter (‘Lovest thou,’ Greek: phileis), which alone claims from him that personal attachment and affection with which indeed he knows that his heart is full.”
What is GOD’S LOVE? and how has it been manfested?
He who does NOT love does not KNOW God, for God is love. —1 John 4:8 NKJV
Answers to frequently-asked-questions about God’s love…
- If God is love, why is the world the way it is—filled with so many bad things? Answer
- In what ways did God lovingly humble himself for our sake? Why did the Creator of the universe come to the Jews for 33 years in such an AMAZINGLY HUMBLE way—instead of in great power and might? Answer
- What is God’s INCARNATION? Answer
- What was Christ’s incarnation and birth all about? Answer
- HELL—How can a God of love send anybody to Hell? Answer
- Was God CRUEL in Old Testament times? Answer
- If God knows I AM HURTING, why doesn’t He help me?
- What is God’s GRACE?
- What is God’s MERCY?
“…You hate all workers of iniquity.” —Psalm 5:5 LSB excerpt
“God is a just judge,
And God is angry with the wicked every day.” —Psalm 7:11 NKJV
“if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard);” —2 Peter 2:6-8 ESV
“God is not angry merely against the sin abstracted from the sinner, but against the sinner himself. Some persons have labored hard to set up this ridiculous and absurd abstraction, and would fain make it appear that God is angry at sin, yet not at the sinner. He hates the theft, but loves the thief. He abhors adultery, but is pleased with the adulterer. Now this is supreme nonsense. The sin has no moral character apart from the sinner. The act is nothing apart from the actor.
The very thing that God hates and disapproves is not the mere event—the thing done in distinction from the doer; but it is the doer himself. It grieves and displeases Him that a rational moral agent, under His government, should array himself against his own God and Father, against all that is right and just in the universe. This is the thing that offends God. The sinner himself is the direct and the only object of his anger.
So the Bible shows. God is angry with the wicked [Psalm 7:11], not with the abstract sin. If the wicked turn not, God will whet His sword—He has bent His bow and made it ready—not to shoot at the sin, but the sinner—the wicked man who has done the abominable thing. This is the only doctrine of either the Bible or of common sense on this subject.” —Charles Finney, The Guilt of Sin
- What is REPENTANCE and why is it very important? Answer
- What is THE FEAR OF THE LORD?
- Why you should use The Law in evangelism
- What is The Gospel?
- What is a TRUE CHRISTIAN?
- “Don’t judge me! The Bible even says ‘Judge not lest ye be judged’.” Response
- Are you good enough to get to into Heaven? Answer
- Will all mankind eventually be saved? Answer
- Stumped about how to share your faith in Christ with others? ChristianAnswers’ Effective Evangelism section assists believers in effectively reaching out to others with love and truth. Learn about the worldview of the people you meet, ways to share the gospel, read stories submitted by site users, and more.
- Dr. John F. MacArthur Jr., “Is Biblical Love a Feeling or an Action?”, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13 • MacArthur founded The Master’s Seminary
- What is THE FEAR OF THE LORD? and why is it so important? Answer
- What is the “Sovereignty of God”? Answer
- What is the “fury” of God? Answer
- What does the Bible say about God’s sovereignty, election, predestination, and man's free will? Answer
- What are the JUDGMENTS OF GOD?
- What is the Goodness of God?
- Why is the world the way it is? (filled with oppression, death and cruelty) If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and loving, would He really create a world like this? Answer
- Is God biased? Is it fair to save only some? What about those who have never heard the gospel? Answer
- Judgment and God's nature and justice (includes Is God unfair in that Hitler and a dear old lady (who never accepted Jesus) will both go to Hell? / “God is all loving. He would never send me to Hell.” / “My god would never send anyone to Hell.”)
- What is MERCY?
- What is GRACE?
- What is REPENTANCE?
- What is GOD’S PROVIDENCE?