How Do You Define Love?
by Joey Carroll Corinth Missionary Baptist Church
Before continuing, let me invite you to read 1 John 2:7-11. It teaches how saving faith and genuine love are inseparable.
For the Christian, love is the defining characteristic that distinguishes them as followers of the Lord Jesus. We are saved by His love, and we are called to love with that same kind of love. But what kind of love is that?
As sinful people, we have a terrible habit of redesigning and redefining everything to suit our desires. One of the greatest pictures of this can be found in the Bible. It takes place just after God rescues the Israelites from slavery in Egypt through 10 miraculous plagues, then leads them through the Red Sea on dry land and continues to journey along with them in a cloud by day and a pillar fire by night.
But in spite of such awesome privilege, the moment their leader Moses is called up Mount Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments, this is what the Israelites said to Aaron, “‘Come, make us a god who will go before us,’” (Exodus 32:1, NASB). So the people removed their gold jewelry, and the priest fashioned an idol in the shape of a calf. To which the people responded, “This is your god, O Israel,” (Exodus 32:4, NASB). The God who had created them and delivered them and promised good to them was just too much for them to handle. So they redesigned God into a god after their own image. A god who would do exactly what they wanted it to do.
But as sinful people, we also redefine words to meet our needs. And those definitions change over time with the ever-changing winds of culture. But when God defines a word, we can trust it because God is eternal and never-changing. Therefore, His definitions stand the test of time no matter how the wind is blowing. The word “love” is a good example of this. Everyone defines love the way that suits them best, and if you do not meet their standard, then you are not loving.
Scripture says that God is love. That does not simply mean that God is loving, but rather the very essence of God is love. But it means more than that. Without God, there would be no love because the fullness of love is only found in the person of God. Is that to say that no one can experience love without believing in God? Not at all. God has manifested His love in many different ways in creation. But, without the knowledge of God in the person of Jesus Christ, a person is only left with shards and fragments of love like a broken mirror. When one comes to faith in Jesus Christ, those broken pieces are restored, and we see the perfect picture of this God, who is love.
So we look to Christ to understand the biblical definition of love. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,” (John 3:16, ESV). The world’s most well-known verse reveals to us the true definition of love. Love is selfless and sacrificial service to others. Notice the idea of “feeling” is not mentioned. Love is certainly not void of feeling, but love is first and foremost an action.
But we need to pay attention to the context of the Cross of Christ to continue to discover the true definition of love. God gave His only Son to a people who neither desired it nor deserved it. God gave His love to rebels. God’s love was given in spite of the attitude and character of those who He was displaying His love toward. In other words, God did not find the motivation to love us, from us. God’s motivation to love was found in His own character. Love is who He is.
The world’s love is very different. It needs to be motivated by someone or something outside of us who is acting a particular way. We need someone to be lovable before we can respond in love and many times it is nothing more than a response of feeling or emotion. As Christians who are born-again after the image of God, we must grow to love others just like Christ has loved us… selflessly, sacrificially giving of ourselves in service to others whether or not they desire it, deserve it, or appreciate it.