(NOTE: This is part three of a four-part series on love for the month of February. Part one can be found here and part two is 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?
“Thinks no evil” (v. 5): To count. To charge with. Love does not keep score of wrongs. We must learn to forgive. Forgiveness is a subject we must get right in our life. It is not optional. Jesus is crystal clear in Matt. 6:14-15. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Don’t forgive, and you won’t be forgiven. But it’s one of the hardest things God has asked us to do. Even the apostles recognized that: “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5).
“Does not rejoice in iniquity” (v. 6): To be glad. “Love does not delight in evil” (NIV). Love does not rejoice when someone is pursuing unrighteousness and ungodliness. We should not be happy when others sin (Ps. 119:136) because sin separates us from God (Is. 59:2). Love and sin are diametrically opposed to each other.
“Rejoices in the truth” (v. 6): Truth is righteousness and goodness. Love takes pleasure in the truth being taught, defended and lived (II John 4; III John 3-4). And that truth is only found in Jesus (John 14:6). Joy needs to be a part of who we are as God’s people. Rejoice in the right things. Rejoice in the truth.
“Bears all things” (v. 7): To protect. To cover. To shield. It comes from the word “roof.” This quality is shown outwardly in three ways: covering something to hide it from sight or thought (Prov. 11:13); protecting it to keep it away from outside forces that threaten; and not ignoring sin. Love is consistent and true.
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.