Is love a warm fuzzy feeling? Does it bring about singing birds and seeing everything through rose-colored glasses? What about us as Christians – when we don’t “feel” those warm fuzzy feelings does this mean we aren’t living as Jesus instructed us to? The Bible never tells us a “warm fuzzy feeling” is the definition for “love.” Hollywood has portrayed to us what the world sees as love and unfortunately we have bought it hook, line, and sinker! So, what is the Biblical definition for love?
Jesus was once asked in Matthew 22:36-40, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” According to Matthew the very essence of the Law is to love God and to love others. Matthew also gives us the Biblical definition for love: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
Jesus told us “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). John, wrote, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death” (1 John 3:14). And “by this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2-3). Nowhere does our “feelings” play a role in whether we are to love or whether we should have a “feeling” before we show love.
When we use the word “love” we must understand there are different types of love. I love my husband one way, but I love my Pastors in a different way. I love my friends in a different way still – however, my love for my church family is different all together. We get confused when we only have the one word to sum up all these different meanings; the word – love.
In the New Testament Greek four main words are used for the term “love.” Each of these words have different meanings.
The first word is “eros.” It’s the wow stuff. It is exciting and it makes us do some very silly things and this is what most people think love is. It means romantic and sexual love between lovers.
Apart from this romantic love there is also love between friends. In Greek this word is “philia.” We all know this type of love and know it is different from the romantic love we just talked about.
Then there is the love we feel for our families. We are brought up to love them – indeed the Bible tells us to honor our father and mother. The strange thing about this type of love, which in Greek is called “storge” – is that it is very difficult to end this type of love. Sadly friendships come to an end, but no matter how estranged one is from one’s family, they still are your family! We may not talk to them for years, we may be angry with them and get totally fed up with them, but they still are our family and we recognise that we have some duty to them. What is different about it, though, is that it stems from a sense of obligation and duty, whereas “philia” the love we have for our friends is what we choose to give and “eros” love often takes us by surprise!
As great as all these loves are, they don’t speak of the love that Jesus was talking about where he says “I give you a new commandment, love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another.” This type of love is radically different from all the others. In Greek it’s called “agape” and it means a sacrificial, unconditional, and possibly unreciprocated love.
Agape love is about giving of ourselves and expecting and wanting nothing in return. (This is not the type of love we usually “feel” or even want to give, especially when we are hurt!) It means loving other people regardless of whether we like them or whether they love us back. The best example is Jesus who laid down his life, not only for his friends, family, or those who made him “feel” loved – but for everyone! Agape love is what made Jesus lay down His life for us all – even though some don’t want to accept His offer. It is this last form of love – agape love – which Jesus commands us to have for each other. A love that no matter what someone has done or not done, no matter how we feel or don’t feel, whether we want to or not – we are to love one another as Jesus has loved us!
I challenge you today to ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you need to show love to someone. Choose to walk in agape love for those around you and watch what God does for you!