(NOTE: This is the fourth and final part of a four-part series on love for the month of February. Part one can be found here, part two is here and part three 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?
“Believes all things” (v. 7): Love always trusts. It never loses faith. Love’s first impulse is to give others the benefit of the doubt. To believe in them. To expect the best from them. A failure to love this way has many consequences, including the cost of friendship. Let us trust one another’s motives and open ourselves to others.
“Hopes all things” (v. 7): To anticipate and expect. “Hope all things” has an eye to the future. To Christians, hope isn’t a wishing-upon-a-star mentality. It’s a certain expectation of salvation (I Tim. 4:10). Love means we invest the same kind of confident expectation that we have for God in the people of God.
“Endures all things” (v. 7): To persevere, with patience. Love can outlast anything. It does not give up, even in the face of opposition. In life, we must run with endurance (Heb. 12:1-2), especially when it comes to other people. Relationships can be messy. We’re all different. How do we endure in a world where relationships are treated as disposable? Focus on what is right, not what is wrong. See the good in others.
“Never fails” (v. 8): Never ends or falls. Love is the greatest gift because it is permanent. It will never disappoint. Because love is not a feeling, but a commitment. God didn’t just feel something for us. He made a commitment to us. God is love and His love is constant forever: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3).
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.