In a world confused about what love really is, it’s crucial for us to understand and uphold the Bible’s definition of love. A great place to start is with the most famous passage on the topic:

If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn’t love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I had the gift of prophecy and if I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would I be?

And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody.

If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would be of no value whatsoever.

Love is patient and kind.

Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.

Love does not demand its own way.

Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.

It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Love will last forever, but prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will all disappear.

Now we know only a little, and even the gift of prophecy reveals little! But when the end comes, these special gifts will all disappear.

It’s like this: When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now.

There are three things that will endure — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).

In English we have one word — love. I love you. I love that movie. I love ice cream. I love, love, love those shoes — where did you get them?

The original languages of the Bible — Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew — have many different words for love. The unconditional love expressed in 1 Corinthians 13 is agape in the Greek, chav in Aramaic, and ahav in Hebrew. Hebrew and Aramaic have a fourth word for loving with tender mercy — racham. Chav flows from one person to another, but racham flows back, completing the circle.

Love comes in many forms, but biblical love is always circular. We love God and thus we love each other, therefore fulfilling Jesus’ greatest commandments (John 13:34-35).

Because God so loved (chav) us to send his son to die for us and not condemn us (John 3:16-17), we respond to that love by loving (racham) him back and being loving to others we come in contact with as we go about our day.

Love, in the Biblical sense, is an action, a choice that goes beyond any feelings, and sometimes in spite of them. When you love in this way first and foremost, it can only enrich the other “loves” in your life…well except maybe for material things like movies, ice cream, and shoes. In reality, those are more in the “like a lot” category, aren’t they?

How will you live out biblical love today?

Original language definitions are drawn from

Photo Credit: Geoff Livingston