What Is Love?

A lantern with 3 lit candles sits in the right foreground, and a small, bright green plant in a terracotta pot is in the left foreground. The blurred background contains a small yard with multicolored flowers in the distance and a patch of tall grass in front of them.

What does it mean to love someone? Are there different kinds of love? Is love just a feeling? What is love? Everybody has their ideas!  Songs have been sung about it. Poems have been written about it. What is love? Who’s right, and who’s wrong? How can you know what love truly is?

Too Many Voices

It gets confusing if you listen to what people say love is, and no wonder!

“It’s great!”

“It’s awful!”

“It makes you feel good!”

“It makes you feel miserable!”

There are as many opinions of what love is as there are people who hold those opinions. One thing is certain, if you go along with the crowd in believing that what they claim is all there is to love, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The only way around that disappointment is to hear what God says love is.

Where’s the Love?

The Bible shows us many examples of what love is. From the Old to the New Testament, the character and qualities of love are displayed in its pages to show it’s supposed to be lived out. In nearly every example there is a common thread; love, the God kind of love, costs the giver.

What is love? The first time we see love mentioned in the Old Testament is during one of Abraham’s encounters with God. Abraham was instructed by the Lord to offer his son Isaac as an offering. Why would God do such a thing? He did it for different reasons. He did it as a way to show Abraham His providence. He did it as a way to prove His ability to do the seemingly impossible. Most of all, He did it as a way to test Abraham’s love. Abraham claimed to love God, but he also claimed to love Isaac, too. Which one would he choose? In his mind and actions, Abraham gave everything he had because he Loved God more than himself or his son. In essence, love cost him everything – and yet he gained so much more.

The Law required love between the people of Israel. Not the gushy, feel-good romance feelings people think of. It was a self-sacrificing love. People were to risk a relationship in order to correct the wayward in their sin. They were to love their neighbor, pushing through the discomfort of confrontation in order to help them.

Prophets were sent by God to lead people into a right relationship with Him. Most of the time those men were met with contempt and hatred, and yet they continued in the face of adversity. They loved God, and as a result, they loved the people God sent them to. It cost them dearly, and yet they loved.

Love Costs

What is love? In the New Testament, we see the clearest display of love in action ever given to humankind – Jesus! He had much to say about love. He made it clear that God’s love went far beyond the feelings we have. According to Jesus, love is an act of devotion, a force more powerful than hate, and emanates from God Himself. Love caused the Father to send Jesus. Love caused Jesus to give His life for those who despised Him. Love caused the early church to go through torment, anguish, and pain. It costs a lot to love.

Counting the Cost

That cost is still paid today by those who love God. Brothers and sisters are ridiculed, harassed and despised – all because of love. People are beaten. Excommunicated. Tortured. Executed. Love costs a lot, and sometimes it costs those who love everything.

What is love? Love isn’t a feeling, an emotion, or goosebumps (even though you may sometimes feel those things). Real love, God’s love, is a decision that you make – even though it costs you something. It is lasting, it is consistent, it is eternal, and love never fails.

What is love? When you are confronted with injustice and pray for your persecutors, you love. If your family wants to disown you because of Jesus and you forgive them, you love. If you try to correct someone who is sinning, you love. Love is the response of a heart that is committed to God, and God wants to use His children to reach the lost and hurting!

What is love? Love means that you put others before yourself. Love will cost you something, but if you love you will pay the price.

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