What is Love?
(NOTE: This is part two of a four-part series on love for the month of February. Part one can be found here.)
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?
“Is not puffed up” (v. 4): Prideful. Arrogant. The sin of pride is very subtle. We tend to see pride in others. But in our own lives, we don’t recognize it, and if we do, we don’t consider it a threat to our spiritual well-being. However, pride leads us away from God, not toward Him (Prov. 6:16-17). God hates pride and He will not tolerate it.
“Does not behave rudely” (v. 5): Indecent. Improper. The original Greek translation is where we get our word “scheme.” To behave rudely is to go against the scheme — to go against what is the norm. Behave properly toward one another (Rom. 12:9-21). Love manifests itself with good manners, courtesy and politeness. Don’t forget the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12).
“Does not seek its own” (v. 5): Desire. Demand. Love does not insist upon its own way. Love does what is best for others and puts others first. Love and service are tied together (Gal. 5:13-14). Failure to serve is a failure to demonstrate love. This is an important key to harmony among Christians. What if you woke up every morning thanking God for a new day of life, and your second thought was, “How can I serve others today?”
“Is not provoked” (v. 5): To stir. To anger. To incite. Love doesn’t go around with a chip on its shoulder looking for reasons to become upset or irritated. Love is not short-tempered. Love “suffers long” (v. 4). I may have the power to say or do whatever I want, but do I have the right? I must be able to control my words and my actions.
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.