Love. It’s what God is. It’s what we’re supposed to walk in. And depending who you ask, it’s also a battlefield, an open door, and all you need. But… what is it? What is love?
Nowadays most people would say that love is being nice, or maybe tolerance or acceptance. Some dictionaries say it’s a feeling of attachment, or passionate affection.
And a mistake many Christians make is using today’s cultural understanding of love and applying that to scriptures about love, rather than getting our definition of love from the Bible and living that out in the world.
So, what does the Bible say about love?
A few things, actually. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, people would ask Him, “What is the great(est) commandment in the law?” and His answer was always the same:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all of your strength.” “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Now these weren’t laws that He just made up on the spot. No, these laws were given thousands of years earlier, when God gave them to Moses on Mount Sinai. These are established laws from the Hebrew Scriptures.
Now notice the connection between love and God’s law. Jesus says that when you’re walking in love, you’re obeying laws that God has commanded. And this connection between walking in love and living according to the law continues throughout the Bible.
Writing to the Romans, Paul says, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” You shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not lie, you shall not covet. Paul says these are all summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Paul is making the same connection between love and law. When you walk in love, you’re obeying God’s law. And conversely, when you disobey God’s law, you’re not walking in love.
James says the same thing, writing, “If you really fulfill the royal law according the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” To love is to fulfill—to obey—God’s law.
Even John, Jesus’ beloved disciple, says the exact same thing. In one of his letters, he writes, “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments.” In other letter, he says, “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.” Then he adds, “And His commandments are not burdensome,” as if to silence the objectors and say, “Guys, you can do this. You can walk in love.”
And finally, Jesus adds His agreement to James, John, and Paul. He tells His followers—He tells you and me—“If you love Me, keep My commandments,” and “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.”
Love isn’t some alternative to obeying God. Love is obeying God. Love is doing what God has said to do. To love someone is to treat them how God has commanded you to treat them. Love is obedience to God and to His Word.
And when you apply God’s standard of love to the world, you find that there are plenty of things that society says are loving that aren’t really all that loving.
Stealing something from one person and giving it to someone in need isn’t real love, because stealing is against God’s law.
Having sex with your girlfriend because you are in love isn’t real love, because sex outside of marriage is against God’s law.
Telling someone that their sin is okay because you don’t want to hurt their feelings isn’t real love, because lying is against God’s law.
If your supposed love is causing you to disobey God, then it’s not real love, because the most loving thing you can do in any given situation is to do exactly what God has said to do.
And real quick, I just want to point out that this isn’t a license to call people out like a tool. Ephesians 4 says our words should be used for godly edification and imparting grace, so if you’re not speaking words of grace, you’re not speaking in love.
So what is love, truly? It’s not what you see coming out of Hollywood. It’s not what you hear on the radio or what you read in Time Magazine or what you see trending on the internet. It’s what you find in the Holy Scriptures, revealed and commanded by the perfect and loving God.
Love is obedience to God’s Word. Love is keeping His commandments. Love is doing what God has said to do. And love is what God has called each and every one of us to do. So let’s get started.
Have a great week, and remember, you’re greater than you realize.