There’s a popular song from the 1990’s called “What is Love.” The lyrics begin with; “What is love, baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt no more.” Moving past the double negative in there (and if you’re part of the grammar police like me, you’ll know what I mean) we can see how the author is writing about a broken heart. Clearly, someone used the infamous phrase; “I love you” and then took it back. Or at least, their actions did not back up the words.
“What is love?” is a great question to explore. In the Greek language, there are various words used for the word “love.” Eros is a type of erotic love, philos describes a love between friends, storge is the kind of love shared between parents and their children, and agape’ is unconditional love. But in the English language, we have one word and that is “love.” We use it to describe anything and anyone we feel affectionately strong about. We say, “I love my children, I love my job, I love my dog, I love that dress, I love those shoes, I love football, etc.” The same word…yet definitely with different meanings. I am confident the love we feel toward our children is not the same as a sport, article of clothing or even the family pet. Yet, it’s the same word. And too often, it’s a word that is misused or misspoken.
At times, in a budding relationship, “I love you” is spoken prematurely. Other times in a heated argument, “I DON’T LOVE YOU” is impulsively shouted out but not necessarily meant. With just one word with so many meanings, it’s no wonder songs are written with the question, “What is love?”
When I have questions I can’t answer, I look to God’s word. That includes learning about love. I could quote 1 Corinthians 13, also known as the “love chapter.” But honestly for me, love is “patient, kind, not self-seeking, not rude, etc.” doesn’t clearly spell out to me the big picture of what love truly is. I had to dig deeper. The answer I found was this…GOD. IS. LOVE. And as cliché as that sounds, let me show you why.
I John 4:8 clearly spells out that God is love. Exploring the chapter farther verse 16 tells us the same thing, God is love. What I learned was when we understand who God is we can understand what love really is.
So who is God? The basics, God is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is also our Creator, our Savior, our Provider, our Protector, our Salvation and so much more. God is the epitome of discipline, self-control, commitment, faithfulness, justice and mercy, acceptance, sacrifice and forgiveness. There are too many verses to list that can back this up-but if you don’t believe me, read the book of Psalms for starters.
David knew love because he knew God’s love. His Psalms are filled with declaration of praise and adoration to his Heavenly Father even during his darkest hours because he knew God loved him no matter what. Understanding God’s love enabled David to love even his enemies. 2 Samuel chapter 1 shows us David grieved King Saul’s death-a man who repeatedly sought to murder David. David was a man after God’s own heart because he knew what real love was.
God calls us to know and understand His love for us so that we can show real love to those in our lives, including our enemies. 1 John 4:19 tells us, “We love each other because He loved us first.” This means to really love others, we have to know, understand and accept God’s love for us first. When we love others in our human strength we base it on feelings, what mood we’re in that day or how the other person is treating us. It’s based on conditions. Loving others through Christ’s strength means we choose love, we choose to show love unconditionally. The second half of 1 John 4:16 shows us; “all who live in love live in God and God lives in them.” 1 John 4:21 goes further by reminding us that “…those who love God must also love their fellow believers.” John 13:34 and 35 says; “…love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.” Notice none of those verses say, “love others when they love you back” or “show love only when someone is being kind to you.”
God loves us. His love never fails. His mercies are new each day. He commands us to love each other not just with words-but like 1 John 4:18 says “to show the truth of our love by our actions.” After all, as the cliché goes, actions speak louder than words.
Do you know, understand and have you accepted God’s love for you? Do you love others in God’s strength or in your own human strength? Before you say; “I love you” again, ask yourself this: Do I love this person the way God loves me? If the answer is “Yes”, then your words will offer that person agape’ (unconditional love.) But if the answer is “no”-maybe you should hold off saying that three word phrase or at least seek to know Christ’s love better asking Him to equip you to love others as He loves you. Remember-if God is commitment, justice, mercy, salvation, acceptance, sacrifice, and forgiveness, then that’s exactly what love is too. Because, God. Is. Love.