While writing this post I was convicted about how little love I have for the Lord and those around me. I hope that these thoughts convict you too. This is only an attempt “to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). The problem isn’t that we don’t know what love is, but that we love the wrong things.
Love is placing the highest value on something. It is an emotion, which makes it difficult to categorize, but C. S. Lewis made an attempt by placing love into two broad categories: need/gift love and appreciation.
Meeting the needs of others
Need/gift love is the love of a parent and a child: the child needs the parent and the parent willingly responds by supplying the child’s needs without concern for themselves. Appreciation is enjoying something simply for the pleasure it gives us. An example would be someone who loves nature.
Lewis then broke our loves into four categories: strong affection, brotherly love (philia), romantic love (eros) and unconditional love (agape). The highest love is agape, which Lewis also called “God-love.” The point of categorizing these loves is so that we can distinguish between our affections and ask ourselves where our supreme desire lies.
Agape is unnatural; it is the love that demonstrates care regardless of any circumstances. It is the kind of love that we all long for. This is the love we read about in Romans 5:8, “God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Why would God care for us so much?
1 John 4:8 says “God is love.” That means that love is at the core of God’s nature. God has eternally existed in a loving relationship with Himself as a Trinity. In His infinite wisdom and love He decided to create people that He could share that love with. That is why the Lord Jesus prayed, “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:23-24). Notice the purpose of the love of God – so that we can be unified, so the world can know Jesus as the Christ and come into a loving relationship with God, and so we can enjoy His love forever in His presence.
How can we love like God?
In Galatians 5:22-23 we are given a list of the fruits of the Spirit. These are the traits of God’s family that will start to show as soon as someone is born again (see also Rom. 5:5; 2 Tim. 1:7; 1 John 3:14). In Galatians 5 Paul is showing the difference between the flesh and the Spirit. The point here is now that believers have the Spirit they don’t need to be under the Old Testament law anymore.
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:14). The Galatians were tripped up on rule keeping and forgot about their supreme motivation – their relationship with God. Their love had become deranged because they started loving themselves and their religion more than their heavenly Father. As we saw from Christ’s prayer, we are saved in order to enjoy His love and show it to others, not so that we can think we are better than everyone else.
Every person who knows Jesus as Lord and Savior knows about this love. As we saw in John 17 and Romans 5:8, it is on the basis of God’s love to us in sending His Son to die on the cross that we are saved. The motivation God had in saving us was His love (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9, 10). We then ought to love God above all else and love each other (1 John 4:11). Love should be the motivation for all that we do.
As one friend told me, “if I’m talking to someone and I realize I don’t love them, I should just shut up.” The Lord Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God and the second was to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). From this and many other passages we see that love is not only a blessing from God, but a command to be obeyed.
We need to develop love for the Lord and for others in our own lives. Thankfully the Scripture gives us insight on how to do that.
To love God we are to:
- “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30, 33)
- Love the Lord Jesus more than our families (Matthew 10:37),
- “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15),
- “… abide in My love (John 15:9)
When we love God like that the love for our neighbor will naturally flow out. It will be demonstrated when obey these commands:
- “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Romans 13:9),
- “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27),
- “do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27, 35),
- “lend, hoping for nothing in return” (Luke 6:35),
- “love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:35;15:12, 17),
- “Feed My lambs… tend my sheep… feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17),
- “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10),
- “Owe no one anything except to love one another” (Romans 13:8).
And of course there is the great chapter on love, 1 Corinthians 13, that defines love by a list of things that love does. Put in command form they are:
- Be patient
- Be kind;
- Don’t envy;
- Don’t boast about yourself,
- Don’t be proud;
- Don’t be rude,
- Don’t be selfish,
- Don’t be easily angered,
- Don’t assume the worst;
- Don’t rejoice in iniquity,
- Rejoices in the truth;
- Bear all things,
- Believe all things,
- Hope all things,
- Endures all things
The word “Love” occurs over 300 times in the Bible. It is undoubtedly a major Bible theme. We are told in 1 Corinthians that love is greater than faith and hope. We need to pray that God’s love to us would become real so that our love for others would be real.