What is love?

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner everyone is thinking about love. But what is love really? 1 Corinthians gives us a great definition of love in chapter 13.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…”

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV

People automatically think of this verse pertaining to couples. It is used in wedding ceremonies and I have even used it a time or two. Why not? It is a beautiful definition. It teaches us that as a couple we should always want the best for our spouse. We should never delight in their misfortune. It teaches us that “arguments” should never be in anger but in love. And once it’s done it is done. Never to be brought up again. My wife and I joke that “I will always love you. I may not always like you but I WILL always love you!” And that’s ok. Love doesn’t diminish because you are mad at someone. If it does that isn’t love.

Our children also need to understand this about love. Just because a child may do wrong or even disappoint us it doesn’t mean we stop loving them or even love them any less. Even if I found out one of my children, or step-children, was a serial killer I would still love them. I would hate what they did and my heart would break for the victims but I would not love my child any less. True love should be unconditional and when it comes to family it is or at least should be. But what about other than family? To answer this question we have to first look to see what bible teaches us.

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

Matthew 5:44-47 NIV

Wait! What? What heretic said this? Oh wait that’s right. Jesus said that. Hmmmm then it is my guess that maybe we should listen. But surely there must have been some hidden meaning in that. There was. Ready for it? Love everyone! Unconditionally!

I know that is actually a hard concept for many people to comprehend and unfortunately many Christians battle with it too. Despite what you or many people think, it is actually possible to hate what someone does or stands for but still love the person. I know many of you have heard the saying “Love the sinner. Hate the sin”. Now while that phrase is not actually in the Bible it is based on biblical principal and teaching. Jesus tells us that unconditional love for everyone is not only possible…it is commanded.

How easy we forget the commandment that says “Love your neighbor as yourself”. It doesn’t say “love your family” or “love those who love you back”. The word neighbor doesn’t mean just the person next to you. It means all those around you.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Romans 13:8-10 CSB

In today’s “Me! Me! Me!” generation where it is all about “my feelings” and “my truth” people have forgotten how to love one another. If you disagree with someone or believe something differently you are automatically hated. Today’s generation has a problem loving even friends and family unconditionally. Forget about strangers or “enemies”.

All people, including Christians, need to learn how to be able to disagree with someone and still love the person. How to believe differently than someone and still love the person. If someone does you wrong, pray for them and forgive them, but still love them. Love those who speak bad about you and never respond to hate with hate. We must learn to “love our neighbor”, “love our enemy”, and most importantly we must learn to always “live a life of love”.

“and live a life of love, just as also the Messiah loved us, indeed, on our behalf gave himself up as an offering, as a slaughtered sacrifice to God with a pleasing fragrance.”

Ephesians 5:2 CJB

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