(NOTE: This is part one of a four-part series on love for the month of February.)
There are four primary Greek words for love. They are: storge; eros; philos; and agape. True Biblical love is agape love — self-sacrificial love that is determined by our behavior and actions, not just our feelings. It’s the noblest word for love in the Greek language. It originates from God, who is THE very definition of love (I John 4:8).
We often go to I Corinthians 13 to define love, where we find “agape” love. Again, that love is not just our attitude, but also our actions. When Paul defined love, he didn’t tell us about what kind of feelings we should have. He didn’t say, “Love feels sympathy, love feels compassion, love feels empathy.” He defined love based upon what it does and what it does not do. What are some of the characteristics of love?
“Suffers long” (v. 4): Love is patient, especially in regard to people. Remembering our own weaknesses will help us to understand others’ faults and shortcomings. Our God is patient with us (II Pet. 3:9), so we must be patient like Him. The need for patience doesn’t ever go away. We need patience with people in our lives, in our homes, in the church and with God.
“Kind” (v. 4): Love is gentle, pleasant and useful. Selflessness is at its core. Kindness is inherently active and outwardly focused. You can’t love someone or something and contain it. Everybody is kind from time to time. But kindness should be part of a Christian’s character. Kindness is not a one-time act. Additionally, kindness is a characteristic of the Father (Titus 3:3-4) as well as a command (Eph. 4:31-32). Our world, our homes, our churches are missing kindness. Be kind.
“Does not envy” (v. 4): Love is not jealous. It does not cause one to be envious of someone else’s success. God declares that those who are envious will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:21). Envy leads one to destroy the object of their envy. Cain did it in the Old Testament (Gen. 4), and envy sent our Savior to the cross (Matt. 27:18).
“Does not parade itself” (v. 4): Love does not boast or show off. It’s the idea of being a “wind bag” — someone who talks at length but says little of value. Bragging is fed by an arrogant attitude. To prevent being a braggart, be eager to listen (James 1:19). Listening is a gift. A great listener says, “What you have to say is more important than what I have to say.”
Many of us can quote the words of Paul in I Corinthians 13, but the more difficult part is putting them into practice in our lives.