The biblical ideal of love is so big and all-encompassing that no single word in any language can fully communicate the revelation of love we find in God's word. We are going to build a biblical definition of love: 1) with love that takes place in the mind of a person, 2) then love that shows itself in actions of a person, 3) love that flows back and forth from person to person.
The biblical ideal of love is so big and all-encompassing that no single word in any language can fully communicate the revelation of love we find in God's word.
The English word love is too vague and used in too many different ways to be adequate. With the same word we say " I love ice cream", "I love my boy friend", "God so loved the world". BUT… The bible does not try to teach us what we need to know about love through a vocabulary lesson... be it English, Greek, Hebrew, or Chinese.
We are going to build a biblical definition of love: 1) with love that takes place in the mind of a person, 2) then love that shows itself in actions of a person, 3) love that flows back and forth from person to person.Love is Your Top Priority
1 John 4:7-8 1 John 4:7-8  Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God.
 He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.
American King James Version× your present purpose is to put on the mind of God. So, understanding Godly love is worth your time and energy.
First lets consider….Love That is Inside Your Mind [list 3 types - Emotions, Attitudes, and Motives]
1. Emotions and Feelings - biblical love can be spontaneous feeling which moves an individual to give of themself.
- Some human beings love God impulsively... moved by their feelings they appear to love just for the pleasure or giving love. The epitome of this sort of person is David.
- God's emotional love toward human beings... which happens for no reason other than God wants to show love. His love is picture in 2 important ways:
- The warmth and affection of a healthy parent/child relationship is brought to mind when God is spoken of loving Israel as His son
- The faithfulness, or covenant of marriage type aspect of love is pictured by God as the loving husband to Israel the wife. [refer to book of Hosea].
These same analogies are carried over into the N.T.
2. Attitude and Disposition - more than a feeling... attitude and disposition is a larger framework that guides and directs the approach you take... Ex. you might have a positive attitude, or you might have a negative attitude, or you might have a loving attitude... each of which will influence the way you do what you do.
God's attitude of love leads to an approach that is consistent, unfailing, steadfast. This mental preset guides and controls all He does today and tomorrow. God's love is committed... committed to loving.
- God's love is committed… its not a sometimes thing... it is not on again off again.
- God's love is unending... it never runs out....
Feelings & emotion define the moment but not the future. God's love is from cradle... to grave... through resurrection... and beyond... a permanent commitment to the welfare of another... to you. So, biblical love is not confined to how we feel right now. Its more.
3. Motivation - all motives trace back to love.. where it goes depends on what you love… love of self, love of others, love of God.
Let’s say I want to honor my son through public praise so that people think more highly of him. My motive is not honor, praise or glory... my motive is love. Either love of my son… OR of self… because his success makes me look good as his parent. The basic core driver and motivator is LOVE. Either self love, or love of others.
Note: certain aspects of self love are OK… God wants us to take good care of our selves… but that is a different subject.Status of Our Biblical Definition of Love:
- Feelings of affection, positive attitudes, and desire that moves us to act in a loving way
The bible emphasizes what you do more than what you feel. The O.T., the Gospels, Acts teach primarily demonstrate rather than explain. We don't get a lot of discussion about what goes on inside our heads until we get to the epistles.
There are two important realms of action found in scripture... whether its the OT or the epistles is:
1. Obedience - is an outward response to all those thoughts, attitudes and feelings of love we discussed in The previous section.
Love itself is commanded -- Deuteronomy 6:5 Deuteronomy 6:5And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
American King James Version×, Leviticus 19:18 Leviticus 19:18You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
American King James Version× [quoted in Matthew 22:37-39 Matthew 22:37-39  Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
American King James Version×]. But its a bit ridiculous to command that a person “feels a certain way”. That’s not how feelings work. So, a command to love is a command to act a certain way.
Doing His commandments, statues and judgments is love -- John 14:15 John 14:15If you love me, keep my commandments.
American King James Version×, 1 John 5:3 1 John 5:3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
American King James Version×, 2 John 6. We show love towards God through obedience... we show Godly love is alive in us through how we treat our fellow human beings.
- Follow the lead of the Spirit - patience, kindness, generosity, humility, forgiveness, mercy, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness are attitudes and mindsets that govern how we act towards others... and really just parts of the whole which is love.
The OT, gospels address these through example… the epistles discuss them more as ideas.Love as Action is Based on Choice
No discussion of biblical love would be complete without addressing the word Agape.... the Greeks had several words for love. The most common were Eros and Philia... and then there was this other word Agape, which wasn't used very much in Greek thought or literature.
Eros was vibrant... pure passion... a man was seized by the all-powerful eros and was helpless... , choice was not an option.
Philia was warm... a sense of duty, obligation, built upon inherited relationships like family, community, race etc. ... not a love made by personal choice but by birth or circumstance.
Agape was cool and rational... It emphasized choice and action... that might have been why the biblical writers chose it as a starting place for building the vocabulary of Godly love.
Greek writings. poetry, philosophies had fleshed out the meaning of eros and philia abundantly but agape was somewhat of an empty shell. The bible writers took that empty shell and proceeded to fill with meaning... biblical meaning.
But godly love… Agape … is to choose to love!Choosing to Act in Loving Way Will Affect Your Feelings
Human beings are rational thinking beings... but we are also emotional... we are designed as a mix of both. Some of what we do is guided by how we feel, and some of what we do is guided by reason, logic etc.
What's important for the project of becoming more loving is that acknowledge that we have the capacity to act in a way that is contrary to our emotions. For example Jesus prayed "let this cup pass from me"... Jesus emotions were strong about accepting death... He was distressed and troubled...He went back in prayer three times that night... His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. But after thrashing it out in His mind He came to the conclusion "Father, not as I will but as you will".
Biblical Perspective: the choice to act lovingly rather than the intensity of the feeling is the test of biblical love. The bible does not begin by asking you how you feel about this person... the bible asks what choices are you going to make about this person.Is Love Without “Feeling It”… Authentic?
Question: if I don't "feel loving" but act like I love someone... am I a faker... emotionally dishonest... insincere?
Answer: the premise that to be an authentic person I must act on my feelings… is FALSE. But am more than that... I am also a person who makes choices! ... I have intellect, I have obligations and connections with others. Take those away and I am less than a whole person!
I would be reduced to a creature who's life is merely hormonal or conditioned responses to external stimuli. BUT, I have the freedom to choose. I can choose to act for the good of others no matter how I feel about them... I can choose to obey God no matter what I think of His commands.
Shall I tell you how I really feel about you [which could lead to hostility an conflict]... or shall I choose to act according to God's revelation of what biblical love looks like... commandment keeping... the fruits of the spirit?
To be authentic I must act with my whole being… not just emotions… but also intellect, reason and choice…and this is true freedom!
Usually, if we choose to act lovingly the emotions will follow... if you need help in this area make it a point of prayer. God will help you.Status of Our Biblical Definition of Love:
- Affection, positive attitudes, and desire that moves us to act in a loving way
- We understand what acting in a loving manner looks like through demonstration and explanation found in God's word: His commandments, laws, statutes...and through the fruits of the spirit etc.
- if the internal "feelings" are missing we can choose to do the works of love and leave it for the feelings to follow. This freedom to choose puts us in a position where we can actively pursue love.
God's ideal is mutual love... to love and to be loved. This is why from the beginning He said "it is not good for a man to be alone". If interaction with others is missing then biblical love is just words... words... words. To practice biblical love you need others to practice on.
Biblical love is most commonly described as outgoing... we are to love others without thinking of getting love back. Outgoing love Is always good... but its something is still missing.
God through Christ sets the example of selfless love extended even to the unworthy. Yet:
- God also expects and desires to receive love as well as to give it Matthew 23:37 Matthew 23:37O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets, and stone them which are sent to you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not!
American King James Version×.
- However He does not insist you love Him or require you love Him in order to show love Himself Romans 5:6-8 Romans 5:6-8  For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
 But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
American King James Version×.
- His desire is to receive love from you that is freely given, joyfully given
God’s goal for you is, that you too experience love from others that is freely given... without the other party expecting something in return [eros]... or out of a sense of duty [philia]... but love that flows freely to you … from others... and it works when everyone does their part.
This is the future God is preparing for us and that He wants us to prepare for.Status of Our Biblical Definition of Love:
- Affectionate, disposition that motivates us to action
- If that "feeling" is missing we can choose to do the works of love and leave it for the emotions to follow
- We can choose to do this regardless of the worthiness of the other person... and without expectation of return.
- But building towards an ideal of mutual shared love freely and joyfully given
Have we adequately defined Godly biblical love? No... this is only a beginning. There is more for each of us to learn about love. More than can be expressed in words.
Ephesians 3:18-19 Ephesians 3:18-19  May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
 And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.
American King James Version×