Love is a small word with a big meaning. We feel and show love to people in many different ways. This depends on who the person is. For example, the way that a husband loves a wife is different to the way that a father loves his children. Or the way that someone loves a friend is different to the way they love their parents. Love is not an easy thing to quantify and measure, especially when it is felt and shown in such a variety of ways.
One of the proverbs of Agur displays the complexity of understanding love. He lists “the way of a man with a maiden” as one of the four things that are too amazing for him to understand (Proverbs 30:18-19 NIV).
Yet, the Bible gives us some clear guidelines in regards to love. What does the Bible say about loving God? In the book of Deuteronomy it tells us that we should love God with all we’ve got!
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:5
Jesus described this as the great and first commandment (Matthew 22:34-40). He also said that a second command was like it:
“You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)
The two commands are closely linked and are further explained in 1 John 4:20-21. God highly values love shown towards our neighbours, our friends. We have been asked to love our friends ‘as ourself’. This sounds strange but it ultimately means we have been asked to put our friends’ needs before our own, to be selfless not selfish. We have been asked to be servants rather than be served (also see Philippians 2:1-11).
We find this type of love in action in the friendship of David and Jonathan. It says more than once that Jonathan loved David “as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1). In the record we find Jonathan doing everything he possibly can to help and support David — even if it meant that Jonathan, as heir to the throne, didn’t become king. The Lord Jesus Christ shows us the supreme example of how to love our friends. His selfless love for his friends even lead to his death! It was the greatest love, he laid down his life for his friends (John 15:13).
The same sacrificial love is to be found, with intensity, within the marriage relationship. When Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus he included this instruction:
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” Ephesians 5:25
Paul goes on to consider the level of natural care that we have towards our own wellbeing (“For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it” v29). He says that this level of self-love should be directed towards our spouse. It asks for complete dedication – ensuring the needs of our loved one are met.
If we are to imitate the love of God (Ephesians 5:1) and the Lord Jesus Christ (John 13:34) in our own lives here are three qualities to remember that can help us.
- Their love is steadfast. This message is repeated countless times throughout the Bible. In his mortal life, Christ loved until he breathed his last breath. God’s love endures for ever (see Psalm 136). Likewise, our love should be never-ending, despite what happens (1 Corinthians 13:8, Proverbs 19:22).
- Their love is impartial. Jesus showed love to people from all walks of life. God has given the gift of life to everyone. “He makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” We too must love our enemies (see Matthew 5:43-48).
- Their love seeks our salvation; it isn’t always a pleasant experience. Their love is guided by what is in our best interests spiritually. “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline” (Revelation 3:19). Sometimes we have to show love in ways that are difficult and that can cause pain (Proverbs 27:5-6 & 28:23).
In conclusion, our affections and emotions may differ towards people considerably but how we show love to everyone should always imitate the love of Christ and God: steadfast, impartial and seeking what’s spiritually best.