When the word “love” is mentioned, people think of many things. There is family love, romantic love, or commitment given to the other spouse in marriage. These are some examples of love as “an intense feeling of deep affection” or “a great interest or pleasure in something” as defined by the Oxford Languages.
There are four primary types of love: Storge (empathy), Philia (friendship), Eros (romantic), and Agape (unconditional God-like). This article is going to focus on Agape love, about which the Bible has much to say in several passages.
First Corinthians 13:4-6 lists qualities of unconditional love, expecting nothing in return: “patient, kind, not jealous, does not brag, is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, does not seek its own, is not provoked, and does not take into account a wrong suffered.”
Probably the most well known passage is in Luke 10:30-37. It’s the parable of a man who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Two religious people passed by and did nothing. A Samaritan had compassion, stopped to help the man, and tended to his needs. James 2:2-9 speaks of giving attention to a person who is well-off, but ignoring or giving lesser value to one who is poor. Real Christian love will not do that.
It is stated in Romans 12:9-16 to “Let love be without hypocrisy…be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor…bless those who persecute you…rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly.”
So, who are we to love, aside from our own family? Love needs to be expressed equally to the needy and poor, those who persecute us, or to someone who has a need of the moment. Jesus said in the two Great Commandments to “love our neighbor as yourself.” A “neighbor” is someone who has a need, and you have the wisdom or resources to help that individual. First John 3:17 says, “Whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?”
Loving others can also include local church congregations helping to revitalize communities and helping in recovery efforts in the wake of natural or human-caused disasters. I read a time ago that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Author Randy Alcorn states that “love cares for the welfare, not the momentary preferences of the one loved.” The kind of love talked about in the Bible goes contrary to human nature. People often don’t want to express unconditional Agape love with nothing in return. This is why true Christian love must be a fruit of the Holy Spirit, lived out by His presence and power. In what specific ways can you love a hard-to-love person through the power of the Holy Spirit?
I would challenge you to recite the fruits of the Spirit every day, with an emphasis on love.
Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.