What is Love?

*cue the 1993 hit song*



Thank you Haddaway for asking the question all of us have.

Ok, in all seriousness, what is love?  The theme of, quest for, and confusion over love permeates most movies and songs today.

A simple blog post cannot even begin to fully unravel the meaning of love, but I will at least dive briefly into it.

Biblically, love is quite different from its many pop culture depictions.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says:

“4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

This is a beautiful passage that people love to read at weddings (or, if you’re like me, you sometimes read this to close friends when they pine over an unhealthy relationship.  Maybe that’s just me?).

Beth Moore writes in Entrusted: A Study of 2 Timothythat love

“shoves you out there where your heart is exposed to the elements.  It is a place where you can really get hurt… The raw vulnerability of untempered love.  Of that handful of people who hold your heart – skinned alive – and could slay you with their absence.  Untempered love is terrifying.  But what is life if we never love others past the rational sensibilities of our self-protection?

(This is an amazing Bible study, and I highly recommend it!)

The ultimate display of love was Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

1 John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

John 15:13 puts forth, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Stop right there!  What does “lay down one’s life” mean?  Does that mean I have to die for my friends?

Already you can see, that love maybe isn’t just the fulfilling fuzzy feeling that we’ve reduced it to.

The Greek word “lay down” in John 15:13 is the word tithémimeaning “to place, lay, set.”  It is the setting down of your life for the good of those you love.  This doesn’t have to include physical death, but the greatest manifestation of this was the physical death of Christ.

Please note, the death in Romeo and Juliet does not count.  That was more of a selfish love.  The kind of sacrifice I’m thinking of would be more of a soldier throwing himself on a grenade to protect his friends.

Paul Tripp writes in What Did You Expect?

“Real love isn’t motivated by the return on the investment,” Love is “Willing self sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving.”

He continues,
“If you’re only interested only in loving people who are deserving,” then you are motivated by love for yourself.

Ouch.  Why do you love the people that you love?  Do you love from selfishness or from truly caring and wanting what is best for the other person, even if it doesn’t result in what you might want?

Loving this way is not easy.  Refusing to put up walls in order to make sure we get the love we want without being vulnerable risks hurt.  But, it is worth it.

“If we do not risk being hurt, we cannot give unconditional love.” – John Bevere

Unselfish, serving love is so beautiful, and when friends, family, or those in romantic relationships love this way, that is truly love.

Finally, I will leave you with this quote by C.S. Lewis:

“Appreciative love gazes and holds its breath and is silent, rejoices that such a wonder should exist even if not for him, will not be wholly dejected by losing her, would rather have it so than never to have seen her at all.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves





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