What is Love?

What is love? Different people understand love in different ways.

If we want to find out the Christian meaning of love, then we should look at Scripture and see what it tells us about love.

Let’s take a look first at what John the apostle and evangelist had to say:

  1. Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. (1John 4:7-8)
  2. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. (1John 4:16)
  3. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)

Point #1: Love originates in the Triune God—the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Even before the universe was made, there is love between the three Persons of the eternally one and complete Godhead. Without the Father loving the Son and the Spirit; without the Son loving the Father and the Spirit; and without the Spirit loving the Father and the Son—all “before the creation of the world”— love would not exist.

Point #2: A biblical understanding of love is that love is about authority and obedience, self-giving (sacrifice) and service. This understanding of love is best expressed in John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

  • The Son of God obeyed the will of the Father in heaven even unto death. Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:14) There is love and authority within the Trinity, as Jesus obeyed perfectly the Father’s will. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) Participating in a relationship with God means submitting to his Lordship and authority; it means obeying his commandments.
  • Jesus suffered and died on the Cross for the redemption of mankind. Jesus said to his disciples: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) Jesus gave this commandment of love to his disciples after he had washed their feet at the Last Supper. What kind of love was Jesus talking about? He wasn’t talking about sexuality, lust, greed or selfishness. But clearly Jesus was talking about sacrifice and self-giving, service and obedience.

Many couples choose 1 Corinthians 13 as a reading for their wedding. This is St. Paul’s great “love” chapter simply because it’s all about love:

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1Corinthians 13:4-7)

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1Corinthians 13:11-13)

This scripture passage applies not only to couples looking forward to be married; it applies to everyone who seeks to love and to be loved. In most relationships, conflicts pop up, but as St. Paul said, love is patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, not arrogant or rude. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. A person who is truly in love grows in love. When I was a child, I loved like a child, but when I became a man, I gave up childish ways and grew in love, loving like a man.