Love is a word we throw around a lot in our culture. I love my favorite sports team, I love a particular TV show or movie, I love steak, I love my wife, I love God. Obviously, we use the word “love” to describe a lot of different feelings and emotions we have, but our English word is used so generally and liberally it comes to have a lot of different meanings which encompass a wide variety of affections. The ancient Greeks had several words for love: Stauros, which is a familial love (such as a parent to child, child to parent, siblings, etc.). Philos, which is a friendship love (think Philadelphia the city of brotherly love). Eros, which is sensual or passionate love for another person. And lastly, the one that is used almost exclusively in the Bible, agape love, which is the love God has for us and intends for us to have toward one another.
So when we say we love someone or something, which love are we talking about, and what do we mean by it? Since God is our Creator, and the Bible says, “God is love” (agape) (1 John 4:8, 16), God defines what the fullest expression of love is, not our human feelings and emotions. In 1 Corinthians 13 we see a definition of agape love, “Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others. It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of record of wrongs…”. Agape love is demonstrated in tangible ways. We see love in action through God’s Son, Jesus., who loved the world so much that he gave of himself for us even to death on a cross (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10). Love thinks of the other person first (Phil. 2:1-5). Love is sacrificial laying down ones life for another (John 15:13), which means love is self-giving. It is what we do more than what we feel.
When we express agape love for one another we reflect our Creator and who we are meant to be.
The problem is, we do not have the capacity to love like this apart from God and his Sprit within us. We think about ourselves and what we want, we do not naturally think about the interests of others first. Love is a gift God provides for us and works into us through the Holy Spirit, also called a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). While we can nurture God’s love, through the choices of our attitudes and actions toward God and others, and we can choose to put on love God has given us (Col. 3:14), however we cannot produce more of it in us. We need God to produce more of his love within us. We need to pray for more of his love. As Jesus said, the more we abide in him (that is in relationship with him), the more fruit he produces in us (John 15:5). If you find that agape love is in short supply in your life, then how is your relationship with God? Draw near to him and he will draw near to you, and his love will continue to grow within you.