What is love? For me, faith and love are two of my favorite subjects to preach and teach about because both are quintessential to walking in the way of Christ. If you come across a believer that has no love in their heart, you’ve likely not come across a genuine believer. In today’s study, we’re going to take a look at why love is important. We’re going to use scripture to define to us what love is and why it means so much to both the Lord and us as believers.
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The Greeks had different words for love. I have heard that there are seven Greek words for love. That being said, we are most familiar with just a few of the Greek words for love.
Eros: romantic, sexual, desirous love. Eros was the god of love in Greek mythology; he was the son of Aphrodite.
Philia: brotherly, friendly love. We would consider this to be the “you know somebody, but don’t really know somebody, but you get along” type of love.
Agape: the love of God; this is the highest form of love – it is unconditional love.
I feel like we, as we get older and mature more, we start to understand these different types of love in our life. In fact, we become better at being able to group people we know into each definition. I feel like we are getting smarter when it comes to love. For example, we hear a lot more talk nowadays about self-love which the Greeks also had a word for as well. In fact, I actually preached a sermon on self-love – “Do You Love Me”. You might want to read or listen to it if you have not done so already.
Love is a fascinating subject from the standpoint that we believe we know everything there is to know about love when we really don’t know as much as we believe we do. I preached another sermon about love this past Sunday – The Great Commandment – that you should also give a read or a listen if you have not done so already. This sermon focuses on loving others.
What is love and where did it come from?
Have you ever wondered how it is even remotely possible that you have the capability of loving somebody? We have the ability to fall in love and I tell you that there’s no other creature in the world that chooses who they love. I often wonder is love an emotion or a feeling? What is it? Where did it come from?
For us to study love, to be able to define love, we must go back to its original source – we must take a look at where we came from. We have to do a “genetics test” if you would allow me to say that. We inherit traits genetically from our parents, right? Eye color, type of hair, and even some diseases are hereditary – passed through the genes (DNA). The same thing happened to us, mankind, at the creation of mankind. We are told in Genesis that the Lord created us in His image (Genesis 1:27). Some believe this means we look like Him but I believe that scripture actually means more than just appearance.
Again, let’s consider all the other life forms we are currently aware of, there are none like us. There are no life forms that think as we do with a morality of right and wrong – choice. We have the ability to make choices and even know the risks of the choices we make! When the Lord breathed into mankind’s nostrils and we became a living soul, we became somewhat like our Creator. You see, the Creator is living as well and has made several decisions through love.
Consider the creation again. When the Lord created the world, did He put mankind onto a barren desert world? No! This world was seeded with plant life and animal life – everything we would ever need. We inherited l
Love, therefore, must have come from the Lord. Those who wrote the scriptures and learned from God, when He came to the world in the flesh, also heard, taught, and wrote these things to us. John wrote (1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16) that God is love. So, in other words, God is the definition of what love truly is. So let us understand the love of God for a moment.
We often quote John 3:16 to describe and define the Lord’s love.
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.John 3:16 NKJV
This, of course, is a truly remarkable scripture. The world was a sinful world that had gone through the great flood but still could not get right with the Lord. Even His chosen people, the nation of Israel, would turn its back on the Lord by worshiping other gods and commit all kind of sin in His eyes. Yet, the Lord still loved not only His chosen people – He loved the whole world! He offered the world eternal salvation through His only begotten Son when He could have let the world rot away in sin.
John 3:16 is a great scripture that defines the Lord’s love, but that scripture has been one that I have spoken about several times. There is another scripture that I want to bring up that is also great in defining the Lord’s love.
45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.Matthew 5:45 NKJV
These are Jesus’ words, and let’s remember that Jesus was God in the flesh. You see, this is love – let me explain.
The Lord “makes His sun rise on both the good and the wicked“. You may not realize this if you simply glanced and read over that scripture, but the sun rising on this world is a blessing! You see, without the sun life would not be possible. Sunlight is what helps the plants make their food. Those cows that we love to eat, they need the plant life to survive and make the milk that many of us also love to drink. So, the Lord causes the sun, essential to life and a blessing, to rise not only for the good folks who pray to Him and believe in Him but also for the folks who couldn’t care less about Him! That is love.
Jesus says that the Lord also sends His rain on both the just and the unjust. Again, we must consider that rain (water) is also a huge blessing. Without water, this world would be a barren hot desert or maybe like the planet Venus – a volcanic and hellish world where life could not survive. Without water, there would be no nutrients supplied to the ground for plant life to crop up. Without plant life, those animals that we love to snack on would not exist. Without plant life, we ourselves would have no meat or vegetables to eat.
God gives these wonderful blessings not only to those who believe in Him but those who He considers sinners. Believers often grow angry and upset with the Lord because they see people “being blessed” that they feel should not be blessed. We must understand that the Lord’s love isn’t based on the same emotions that we use. His thoughts, His ways (and His love) are simply different f
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,Isaiah 55:8-9 NKJV
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
I show all of this to illustrate to us the type of love that we have inherited from the Lord, and is inside of all of us through inheriting a part of the Lord. I consider how much hatred is being stirred up and is in the world today, but at the same exact time, I consider how many stories filled with true acts of love that we just barely get to hear about or read about.
For example, I shared my search for a kidney donor on my social media and the outpouring of support and shares of my search have been absolutely remarkable.
At the same time, I understand that there were different types of love that
Why is love so important to the genuine believer?
Consider this: the last person that disrespected you, how have you treated them since they disrespected you? Let’s also consider this: the person that hates who you are, how have your thoughts been towards them and how do you treat them? Do you love them? For many, the answer is that they do not treat those folks with any kind of love. In fact, most of us answer hate with hate and it gets us nowhere except for boiling over in more hatred and anger. The believer is called to turn away from such hatred and to love everybody. Why
We must consider the One who created us once again. We say that we are the children of God – Christians, right? Here’s what John wrote to us:
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.1 John 4:11 NKJV
Had the Lord not first loved us, where exactly would we be? We would be like animals – survival of the fittest and strongest. We get an idea every day for how this world could be had we, mankind, not had the love of God in us. We see people and even hear from people every day who have absolutely no love inside of them. Many of those people will actually say that the Lord is the head of their life, but they have absolutely no sympathy and no empathy inside of them for others.
How can you say that God rules over your life when you are a hateful person filled with all kinds of animus and vitriol? You see, it does not work that way because there is no evil vitriol inside of the Lord. Throughout the Bible, we find that the Lord commands us to love each other time after time. We see this both in the Old Testament and the New Testament! Here’s a command in part of the Mosaic Law that was given to the nation of Israel:
34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.Leviticus 19:34 NKJV
I wanted to share this scripture because many people are mistaken to believe that the Lord “changed” between the Testaments – that’s not true. There was always a command to love your neighbor. The problem is that many folks look only to the Ten Commandments instead of reading the rest of the Mosaic Law (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
We get to the New Testament and we see that Jesus essentially repeats this command to new believers:
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’Matthew 22:37-39 NKJV
Love. This is the great command that Jesus gave to all who would follow and believe in Him. I honestly feel like this is a great command for all people to follow, whether they are of the faith in Him or not. Why is this command so important? Because God loves us regardless of all of our wickedness and mess!
The Lord, of course, could have easily torn us all apart but the Lord has given every man, woman, boy, and girl an opportunity at living in eternal love forever. When we choose to hate rather than love, we are choosing a path that is not inline with the Lord’s way. We want to all go to heaven but the Lord is not going to allow hate-filled souls to enter into His heavenly kingdom. Therefore, we must change our thoughts towards love and learn to love a new way – with that agape love. I feel like we have figured out the other three loves – eros (sexual and desirous), philia (friendly), and storge (familial). However, our understanding is somewhat lacking when it comes to that true love (agape).
We have an idea for what love is, but that idea is not quite complete. Everybody wants to be loved. Some want others to love them, badly, but true love does not start with others loving you, it starts within ourselves first. This will be a good stopping point in the first part of our bible study about love. Next week, we will take a look at how we acquire that agape love and how we properly share such a love. I hope you enjoyed this week’s study and will share this study with somebody somewhere.