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Have you ever sat down to think of what love truly means? Yes, you hear the word ‘love’ every now and then, in the church, at work, basically everywhere people interact, love is mentioned. On the radio, you sometimes tune in to programs that are centered on the theme of love. Basically, in a week, you come across it at least once.
If love is this vital a part of human existence, what does it really mean? The world today has many definitions of what love is but many of them make love look less than what the bible teaching on love says. Now, the question is, what is God’s definition of love? The Bible in 1 John 4:8 states clearly that God is love.
The world’s love is based on self and what it will gain in return for the show of affection, and it also depends mostly on feelings. So when the feelings fade, then the love dies. You probably have liked someone before and in the process expected something in return; affection or the likes but when the person failed to reciprocate or do what you expected him/her to do, the feeling began to drop and eventually died.
Now, how do you love as God loves? How does God’s unconditional love come to play in your life? Take a deep breath because in this write up, I will show you what is true love according to the Bible, which is God’s Word and at the end of reading this article, you will be able to clearly differentiate between true love and human love that is indeed flawed with selfish ambitions. With this understanding of God’s definition of love, your life will be a reflection of the love of God.
Table of Contents
- 1 Bible Teaching On Love
- 2 Characteristics of God’s Love
- 3 God’s Love vs Man’s Love
- 4 God’s Unconditional Love
- 5 Benefits of Love in Christianity
Bible Teaching On Love
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” John 3:16 (MSG).
Imagine what it means when you give out that thing that is most precious to you because you loved someone. This is what God did for you just out of love. This is love defined, being able to part with something that costs you so much that you are ready to sacrifice it just because of that person you love, without any strings attached.
This kind of love is unselfish because it is ready to give even the most precious of possessions. Jesus said in Matthew 5:44 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘ …’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.
When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.
If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.” (MSG).
The definition of love in the Bible is one that challenges what the world says about love today. Love remains true no matter what the person who is the receiver of the love does. That is God’s definition of love. The understanding of this kind of love, will help you to enjoy the purpose of the coming of Jesus to die for the sin of the world.
Characteristics of God’s Love
The word, love, in the Bible is mentioned many times. However, there are four types of love identified in the Bible, and they are;
1. Eros: Which is romantic or sensual love. This is highly portrayed in the Songs of Solomon. It is a kind of love between husband and wife. It is the kind of love that exists between lovers.
2. Storge: This describes family love. It is the strong bond that naturally holds family members together. This is exhibited in the family lives of Noah, Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus.
3. Philia: This is the powerful emotional attachment that holds good friends together. An excellent example of this is the bond between David and Jonathan. Perhaps you have one or two friends you show this kind of love.
4. Agape: This is the God kind of love. This is God’s definition of love. A love that is unconditional. The sacrifice of Jesus describes this love on the cross for the salvation of you and I. It is also spoken of by Apostle Paul in 1 Cor 13: 4-8.
For the sake of this article, I will be focusing on Agape love. Since God is love, according to 1 John 4:8, then love will be what God is. Therefore, the characteristics of God’s love are His characteristics. But then, what are the characteristics of the love of God?
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 MSG puts it this way,
“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut. Doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others. Isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle. Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others. Doesn’t revel when others grovel. Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. Love never dies…”
From the scripture above, the attributes of love are;
1. Love is not selfish.
2. Love is patient.
3. Love is kind.
4. Love never gives up.
5. Love trusts God always.
6. Love rejoices in righteousness.
7. Love is not proud.
8. Love is eternal.
There can never be enough words to describe God’s love but the last sentence in the above scripture gives the final summary of the characteristics of God’s love. God cannot die so, true love which is the love of God cannot either.
This is such a powerful truth that is capable of saving the sin -sink soul. It has the power to convict the greatest offender and bring him to repentance. It is eternal. It does not give up even on the repeated sinner. This love is so great that the mind of man cannot comprehend it in its full form.
God’s Love vs Man’s Love
I once liked a girl some years back. I always wanted to see her laugh, hear her talk and watch her smile. But, I realize that she wasn’t seeing me the same way I did about her. This made me feel bad, and it affected the way I saw her. It almost made me bitter towards her. Now, this was human love. It can corrupt when disappointed.
Compare that with the love of God that Apostle Paul described in Romans 5:6 (MSG) “Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway.
We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.”
Reading this scripture evokes a reflection on God’s unconditional love; because it is clear that His love is unimaginable, and yet enduring, despite the challenges it faces from the resistance of man.
While man’s love is based on conditions, some of which are the need for it to be reciprocated, material gain and favor, the love of God is entirely unconditional.
Man’s love is selfish while the divine love of God does not seek to satisfy itself but instead looks out for the needs of others. It is sacrificial. It is not a ‘gimme, gimme’ kind of love. Rather, it is a giving love.
God’s Unconditional Love
According to the English dictionary, the word “unconditional“ means to be absolute; without conditions, without limitations, without reservations or without qualifications. Now defining unconditional love, is to say that this love is absolute, without reservations, limitations or qualifications. This is God’s definition of love, exhibited in His character.
God’s love is unconditional because, man, you and I do not deserve this kind of love owing to the human nature of rebellion. Man was not on good terms with God, but yet, He sent Jesus to die for you and I so that we can enjoy fellowship with Him as it used to be in the garden of Eden.
2 Corinthians 5:19 (MSG) said: “God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins….”
Scriptures are replete with various instances where God demonstrates that His love for man is without limits. It’s such a boundless love.
The book of Hosea is a perfect example of how boundless God’s love is. (Hosea chapter 1- 3) Hosea is instructed by God to marry an ungodly woman to represent the nation of Israel and Hosea obeys and marries Gomer. Imagine a prophet, marrying a well known unfaithful woman in the city.
Gomer, however proves to be unfaithful to the marriage as she goes on sleeping around, (as expected from a typical unfaithful woman) thereby being unfaithful and in the process leaves her husband. Despite all of this, Hosea does not relent but goes after her to restore her to the marriage. What an expression of unconditional love!
This story was a replication of what Israel was doing at that time. They forgot about God and went after other gods and ended up offending God who was their husband as Hosea was the husband of Gomer. Hosea shows the love of God this way;
Hosea 2:16-20 (MSG)
“At that time —this is God’s Message still— you’ll address me, ‘Dear husband!’ Never again will you address me, ‘My slave-master!’ I’ll wash your mouth out with soap, get rid of all the dirty false-god names, not so much as a whisper of those names again. At the same time I’ll make a peace treaty between you and wild animals and birds and reptiles, And get rid of all weapons of war.”
Think of it! Safe from beasts and …..!
And then I’ll marry you for good—forever!
I’ll marry you true and proper, in love and tenderness. Yes, I’ll marry you and neither leave you nor let you go. You’ll know me, God, for who I really am.”
“On the very same day, I’ll answer”—this is God’s Message— “I’ll answer the sky, sky will answer earth. Earth will answer grain and wine and olive oil, and they’ll all answer Jezreel. I’ll plant her in the good earth. I’ll have mercy on No-Mercy. I’ll say to Nobody, ‘You’re my dear Somebody,’ and he’ll say ‘You’re my God!'”
Now, what are the benefits of God’s unconditional love? They are numerous, but I will make mention of a few and how it affects you and I today.
The Love of God Is Eternal
Jeremiah 31:3 (MSG ) “God told them, I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love!”
The love of God is timeless just as God is timeless. God’s definition of love is God. Everything about Him is love. This attribute is an assurance that no matter what happens, He’ll still love you; just as Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:35- 39 (MSG)
“Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, ……, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:”
” …. you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one. None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”
Nothing can separate you and I from the Divine love of God. We are eternally secured in his eternal love. Halleluiah! I’m actually shouting for joy as I write this. This revelation of God’s definition of love is liberating.
It Is Manifested In God’s Mercy Towards Man
Psalms 107:1 (MSG) “Oh, thank God—he’s so good! His love never runs out.”
According to the English dictionary, mercy is a tendency toward forgiveness, pity, or compassion. God’s mercy is what makes Him forgive our sins and take pity on you when you are going through hard times or when you fall. The scripture above states clearly that God’s mercy endures forever.
Had it not been for God’s mercy, His judgment would have befallen a sinner in every moment that the person commits the sin.
God’s Love Makes Grace Available
The English dictionary defines Grace as free and undeserved favor, especially of God; unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification, or for resisting sin.
Simply put, Grace is God’s unmerited favor. Favor is an act of kindness and goodness rendered by a person to another.
When God made man, He gave him instructions to follow, but man disobeyed. Man broke the fellowship by yielding to the temptation to sin, and did not deserve to live according to the divine decree, but God went ahead to make atonement for man in the person of Jesus Christ.
Man did not deserve it owing to his rebellious nature, but the love of God manifested itself in Grace to restore man back to fellowship with God.
Benefits of Love in Christianity
Thus far, I have shown you what God’s definition of love is and how it is manifested in His relationship with you and me.
There are many blessings and benefits attached to love in the life of a believer. In fact love has no disadvantage, it is all good and has no flaws. Now, I am taking about agape love which is the God kind of love.
I will however speak of some areas where love is beneficial in Christianity and how it can make your journey as believer sweeter and easier.
Without love, no one can ever forgive wrongs. A popular saying goes “to err is human and to forgive is Divine.” The natural man is a man who does not have the love of God in him. Such a man cannot forgive wrongs done to him.
But when you have the love of God in you, you find it easy to obey Jesus’ command in Matthew 18:21-22 (MSG)
“At that point, Peter got up the nerve to ask, ‘Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?‘
Jesus replied, ‘Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.'”
Now, you and I know that it would be wrong to keep count of hurts, therefore what Jesus meant there is that there should not be a limit to the number of times you forgive hurts done to you.
A little digression here, imagine, if God wants us to take the limit off the number of times we should forgive our neighbor, do you suppose his forgiveness for the sin of any man has limit? Impossible!
2. Relating With Others
The love of God helps you as a Christian to properly relate with both unbelievers and believers alike.
Matthew 7:12 (MSG)
“Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behaviour: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets, and this is what you get.”
3. Soul Winning
With God’s work in your life, witnessing to the unsaved becomes an easy thing as you do not even have to tell them about Jesus. Your lifestyle of love does the preaching. A popular adage says, “actions speak louder than words.”
See what Jesus said in John 13:34 (MSG)
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way, I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
Do you want to win more souls to the kingdom? Live a life of love. A life of love in God’s definition of love.
The love of God constrains a man to treat his wife as his own body. Nobody will want to treat his body unkindly. The same goes for the woman. Paul admonished husbands in his letter to the Ephesians saying;
“Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty.
Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favour—since they’re already ‘one’ in marriage.”Ephesians 5:25 (MSG)
Conclusively, whatever your walk in life, the understanding of what God’s definition of love is, is a bondage breaker. With the understanding of His love, you become unstoppable, because Apostle John said God is love and he that dwells in love abides in God. And in God, you’re unstoppable because God is unstoppable.
The love of God is not as the world’s love is which is selfish and does not last. God’s love is eternal and selfless. It is unconditional and all-powerful.
I’ll love to hear from you through your comment. Let’s share this definition of God’s love to all our friends and family, so they too can enjoy the benefits that come with the understanding of this Agape Love.