The world says love is about how someone makes them feel or how they feel about someone else, but God says love is about how you behave and treat others.
This message is for those who claim to be followers of the true and living God and anyone else who wants to understand what godly love looks like. The Church needs to know what godly love is for three reasons:
- In order to build unity among the saints.
- Keep friendships, marriages, and families together.
- Show an accurate example of Christ to the world.
Christian misconceptions about godly love
We can’t love like Christ. His love is just something to aspire to, not something you can actually reach.
This is false. The Bible says, “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us” (Philippians 4:13), for God called us to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) and to love one another like he loved us (John 15:12).
These comments usually come from people who don’t want to obey God, listen to the lies of the devil, or have failed to love because they tried in their own strength. Loving like Jesus is possible because Jesus commanded us to do so.
You have to first love yourself before you can love others.
I hear this often, but when you look at Scripture it’s not there. The truth is: most people love themselves already. By nature we’re self-centered beings.
In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus said to love God first. If you love God first, you’ll be filled with his love in return so you won’t have a problem loving your neighbor as it goes on to command (John 14:23; Ephesians 3:14-21).
To love yourself first is contrary to the word of God, self-centered, and not an attribute of love as we see in 1 Corinthians 13:5. If a person doesn’t love themselves, it’s because they don’t love God. Loving God rids a person of self-love issues.
The world defines love this way:
A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward another person. An intense emotional attachment or feeling for a person, place, or thing. A feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person with whom one is disposed to make a pair. Romance, sexual passion, sexual intercourse.
God defines what love is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 saying:
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely. Love does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
After comparing the world’s view of love with the Bible’s, we get a few things:
- Love is not a feeling.
- Love is not an emotion.
- Love is not attraction.
- Love is not having sex.
- Love is not liking someone.
- Love is not giving gifts.
Love is godly moral character.
Notice how the world’s definition is based on how they feel about someone—this has nothing to do with love at all. Godly love is all about moral character—how we act and treat other human beings. And we as children of God know that our moral character comes from God (for God is love as seen in 1 John 4:7).
I much prefer someone treating me with kindness, respect, humility, and patience rather than relating to me solely on our similarities, mutual benefit or attraction.
This means that times will come when we don’t feel like showing respect, patience, trust, and honesty; but we must push past those feelings and show it anyway. Love is what we do according to the standard of God, not what we feel.
The “5 Love Languages” is not love.
Gary Chapman wrote a popular and excellent book called The 5 Love Languages. In it, he describes the five different things people in relationships can do to make the other feel loved. The book helps you learn your mate’s love language so you can speak it and have a successful marriage. The languages are:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
First of all, I read this book and I really like it. As a psychologist, Chapman discovered 5 different actions humans receive that make them feel good. I said “feel good,” because that’s all it is; this is not love. These are good things to express to people but not without the foundation of God’s love.
Sex, attraction, and the spirit of lust
Have you ever heard a man see a beautiful woman and declare, “I’m in love!”? Most often it’s simply desire (which is normal) or worse, the spirit of lust.
The spirit of lust is a terrible thing because it’s the exact opposite of love (which is selfishness). A man or woman in the spirit of lust is looking to relieve themselves at the expense of another. They’re looking to quench the thirst in their soul which can only be fulfilled by God.
How do you know you’re in the spirit of lust? You will feel out of control, and if you do get what you want, you won’t be satisfied.
Do not mistaken strong desire for love and dont let desire lead you into the spirit of lust. Desire can be normal and natural thing, but the spirit of lust is abnormal and leads to destruction. Believers have been given the power of self-control to combat the spirit of lust (Galatians 5:22-23).
How to determine if it’s godly love.
A man or woman can know if the person who desires them loves them by lining up that person’s character with God’s definition of love. They should ask themselves this question: does this person display the attributes of Christ? Through discernment from the Holy Spirit, often times, they will find that this is not the case.
Most people cannot love because love is God (1 John 4:7) who only embodies the born again believer. Without God, no man can love. However, the people of God love like God because they have God in them (John 14:23).
So, where does attraction, desire, arousal, passion and sexual intercourse fit in? Are these love? No. These are simply the natural feelings that come about between the opposite sexes for the purpose of unification, pleasure, and procreation which should only be expressed and enjoyed when a strong foundation of godly love has been established within marital commitment.
I’m satisfied with God’s definition of love because it is solid–something I can build a foundation on. The world doesn’t have a standard. And mainstream Christianity doesn’t follow God’s standard either. This is why love is so confusing and disastrous in this world—it’s not love all.
Of course, people want God’s kind of love, but it’s hard to find on earth because it comes from above. Until people come to God and interact with his children, they will never experience godly love.
More about love
The 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 passage names 13-16 different attributes (depending on what Bible version you use). I’ve written an article on some of the different attributes. You can learn more by clicking on its link:
- Love is Patient.
- Love is Kind.
- Love is Happy for others rather than envious.
- Love is Humble rather than boastful, disrespectful, proud and arrogant.
- Love is Forgiving and doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.
- Love is Honest and doesn’t rejoice in evil.
- Love is Covering the faults of others, rather than gossiping about them.
- Love is Hopes for the best for people rather than the worst.
- Love is Supportive and considerate rather than self-centered.
- Love is Courtesy and polite rather than rude.
- Love is Slow to Anger and not easily provoked.
- Love is Trusting and gives a new start to those who’d sinned in the past.
- Love is Loyal, endures to the end, and never gives up.
Also: Love doesn’t Control others.