“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – I Corinthians 13:4-7:

Valentine’s Day is over and many wallets are probably a little thinner as we invested various amounts of money in an effort to demonstrate to someone special that “I love you.” But what is love? Not gooey, pulse-pounding sentimentality, but real love as defined by God. We hear a lot about love, but actually see very little of it. We look for it, dream about it, talk about it, and sing about it. But what is it? We think we understand the topic and more importantly we think we recognize it in our lives. But defining it is a different story. The best definition of love I’ve come across is found in I Corinthians 13:4-7, (see above)

This is especially true for Christians. Remember, we serve and worship a God who says that He is love. “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4.8). God is the source and truest expression of love. Everything He does is loving. Further, God has told us that we can actually know what love is by looking at the cross. What then is love?

Let me take a stab at a definition. Love is the willful and joyful sacrifice of ourselves in the service of others. This definition takes into consideration that the love that was displayed in the giving of Christ was willful. That is, it was not under compulsion. “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame…” (Hebrews 12:2) It was also a matter of service. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) 

C.S. Lewis in Four Loves writes: “God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing – or should we say “seeing.” There are no tenses in God – the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a “host” who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and “take advantage of” Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.”

Love is not just a feeling, or a theory, or a nice word. It’s the way you treat people, what you do for others. Love will always cost you something: time, energy, effort, money, giving up your pride, doing what’s right when you don’t feel like it, keeping a good attitude when you don’t get your way. Loving the way God loves means you love when there’s nothing in it for you; it’s all about giving out and not expecting anything in return. We’re called to outreach, not in-reach. Real love is about dying to self and living to love others.

That is what love is.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you define genuine love?
  2. How much of your life is characterized by love? What is keeping the percentage from being larger? 
  3. What does your level of involvement in the church say about your love for God’s family?
  4. What steps can we take this week to better reflect the love of God?