by Omolola Oriogun
The true meaning of love, as defined in the Bible, has been corrupted in the common usage of our English language and society. Most often, love is confused with infatuation – that elated, “high” feeling we get when we “fall in love.” This kind of “love” is something that typically lasts less than a year, and unless replaced by true love, results in broken relationships.
Everybody seems to believe that love is a good thing. However, not all agree on what love is. Is love that warm touchy-feely feeling a person has when he is with a familiar person? According to the Bible; “Love is caring in action, and love isn’t what we feel, but what we do.”
The Bible indicates that love is from GOD. In fact, the Bible says “GOD is love”- 1 John 4:8b. Love is one of the primary characteristics and nature of GOD. Likewise, GOD has endowed us with the capacity for and to love, since we are created in HIS image. This capacity for and to love is one of the ways in which we are “created in the image of GOD.”
The Greek language (the language of the New Testament) uses two different words to describe and define love. The most commonly used Greek word translated “love” in the New Testament is “agape.” This love is represented by GOD’s love for us. It is a non-partial, sacrificial love best exemplified by GOD’s provision for our rebellion.
The different Kinds of Love The first kind of love is Agape: “For GOD so loved (agape) the world, that HE gave HIS only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in HIM should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16
The gift of GOD’s Son as a provision for sin was given to all humans, regardless of who we are. GOD’s love is unconditional.
The second kind of love is Phileo: In contrast, our love is usually conditional and based upon how other people behave toward us. This kind of love is based upon familiarity and direct interaction. The Greek word “phileo” defines this kind of love, often translated “brotherly love.” Phileo is a soulish (connected through our emotions) kind of love, something that can be experienced by both believers and non-believers. This is in contrast to Agape, which is love extended through the spirit. Agape love requires a relationship with GOD through JESUS CHRIST, since the non-regenerated soul is unable to love unconditionally. Agape love gives and sacrifices, expecting nothing back in return.
If you have studied the Bible, you will know about Peter’s character, that Peter was ruled by his emotions and often responded to situations emotionally, rather than thinking before acting. Sometimes this kind of response led to good things, e.g., Peter walking on the water to meet JESUS (Matt.14:25-33), whereas at other times, Peter’s response was inappropriate, e.g., he was interrupted by GOD while suggesting that he build three tabernacles, one for JESUS, one for Moses, and one for Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt.17:4) and also JESUS openly scolded him & call him satan when he told JESUS not to die (Matt.16:21-23). Peter was quite proficient at expressing phileo love, and was probably very popular because of his dynamic character. However, GOD wants us to express both agape and phileo love. Peter expressed this idea in his first epistle:
“Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love [phileo] of the brethren, fervently love [agape] one another from the heart, 1 Peter 1:22.” Believers in the churches of Asia Minor had already expressed phileo love, but Peter was encouraging them to fervently express agape love as well. If you are a Christian, you are encouraged to express both spirit-led unconditional and soulish, familiar love. The goal of the Christian is to become “partakers of the divine nature.” In Peter’s second epistle, he says that we are to behave with moral excellence. However, this is not enough. Christians tend to be characterized by non-believers as telling other people how they ought to behave. Besides, the Christian life should not be restricted to just moral excellence, but, above all else, should include both agape and phileo love:
Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness [phileo], and in your brotherly kindness, love [agape], 2 Peter 1:5-7.
The most famous biblical chapter on love is from 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. It is a description of agape love. It is described as being “patient, kind, truthful, unselfish, trusting, believing, hopeful, and enduring. It is not jealous, boastful, arrogant, rude, selfish, or angry. True love never fails.” The description perfectly fits GOD’s love toward us, and should be the way we love GOD and each other. I have never met any person who perfectly fulfills this biblical definition of love. The Bible says that this unconditional love is more important than everything else. All of the things, which are “good” things, will pass away. Only love is eternal, since love will be the basis of eternal life. In fact, when JESUS was asked what the greatest commandment was, HE said, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, (Matt. 22:37).” HE then added that the second most important law was “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” JESUS said that the entire law was dependent upon these two commandments.
In conclusion, if you are not a Christian, I hope you desire to express love as defined in the Bible. However, wanting to do so and attempting to do so in the power of your own will is guaranteed to fail. This kind of love is only possible by relying on the power of GOD, through faith in JESUS CHRIST. Even if you are a Christian, you will not succeed if you do not abide in CHRIST.
I pray the LORD direct your heart into the love of GOD and into the steadfastness of CHRIST as you give HIM your heart and life today, amen.
For further study on Love, here are some scriptures to help:
1 John 4:8; Genesis 1:27; Ephesians 2:8; 1 John 4:10; Romans 1:16; 5:8, 18; 6:10, 23; 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and Luke 6:35.