Can’t Buy Me Love
1 Corinthians 13 is probably the most referenced passage in the Bible at weddings. It beautifully describes and defines what love is. But this love is not just meant to be shown to our spouse, it is a love we are to demonstrate to everyone, as Jesus taught, “as I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34).” We have only one word to convey many different forms of love, which is confusing because it isn’t always clear what kind of love we are talking about or if we even know the difference. In the Ancient Greek, the language the New Testament of the Bible was written in, there are several words for “love” such as:
agape – God like love (unconditional, sacrificial, selfless),
philia – friendship love, and
eros – romantic love.
In the New Testament of the Bible, virtually every reference to love is agape love. We are to love one another the same way God does. It doesn’t take very long for us to realize that we can’t manufacture this kind of agape love simply by trying harder. There will always be people for whom it is hard for us to show agape love (enemies, those who hurt us, etc.), and we will not be able to love consistently the way God does. This kind of love has to come from the heart, a heart transformed by the love of God. Agape love can only come from God because “God is love” (1 John 4:10). God is the source of love. It is good for us to want to practice love, as Paul describes here in 1 Corinthians 13, but we first need to recognize our need for God and his love to fill us. As the Bible describes, this transforming love is not naturally within us (at least not in full) because we are selfish and prideful, putting ourselves firs. This God like love needs to be shed abroad in our hearts through God’s gift of love, his Son, Jesus Christ. We need to receive Jesus to have our heart of stone, turned into a heart of love. This love is a gift or fruit given to us through His Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). So, in order to grow in love we need to be in relationship with God and grow closer to him. As we abide in him, and obey his command to express God like love toward others as he does, he grows the fruit of love (among others) within us (John 15:5, 9-17). We actually increase in our capacity and ability to love even those who are hard to love.