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:

  1. In order to build unity among the saints.
  2. Keep friendships, marriages, and families together.
  3. Show an accurate example of Christ to the world.

Christian miscon­ceptions about godly love

Misconception 1:

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.

Misconception 2:

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.

Love defined

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.

The world says love is about how someone makes them feel, God says love is about how you behave and treat others.

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:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. 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:

  1. Love is Patient.
  2. Love is Kind.
  3. Love is Happy for others rather than envious.
  4. Love is Humble rather than boastful, disrespectful, proud and arrogant.
  5. Love is Forgiving and doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.
  6. Love is Honest and doesn’t rejoice in evil.
  7. Love is Covering the faults of others, rather than gossiping about them.
  8. Love is Hopes for the best for people rather than the worst.
  9. Love is Supportive and considerate rather than self-centered.
  10. Love is Courtesy and polite rather than rude.
  11. Love is Slow to Anger and not easily provoked.
  12. Love is Trusting and gives a new start to those who’d sinned in the past.
  13. Love is Loyal, endures to the end, and never gives up.

Also: Love doesn’t Control others.

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46 Comments

    1. It was real good.got alot out of it how can i get the rest of the 11 part series of it. Starting with part 2 thru 11

  1. Thank you so much for this Break down, God and I had a conversation a few yrs ago about the Word Love and what it means , and he told me until people learned and knew how to Love him their is no way anyone can truly know what True Genuine authenitc Love is without him being first and him teaching them how he loves so that he can show then how to Love him and others, people will forever Just use the word and say they Love someone because its so Frequently used without evening knowing the meaning, I love how you said you had heard that the old saying use to be you cant Love someone until you Love yourself first, I heard the same thing too , Until god told me the truth about phrase, I loved myself from natural Realm, but it wasnt until I discovered god Loves for me first, then I learned how to Love myself and Love others as christ wanted me too, for someone who was abused allot you think that I wouldnt know what Love was because abuse is all I have known, But god has been their for me My whole Life since 3 yrs old , he raised me with out parents curious parculair person I have always been I am blessed to me apart of this site Praise god amen.. Jenny

  2. This is awesome. It really put the the meaning of true love so I can really see it in my own life as to where I am and if I am really loving the way God would have me. I have known for a long time about God’s love or the biblical definition of love but did not apply it the way you have broken it down. We are doing ministry work in the nursing home and wanted to start by focusing on the fruit of the spirit. Love is the first we would share. Because of your info. We will be able to rightly share the word of truth. God bless you!

  3. L – take the L it stands for LIFE – Life is Love – LOVE is LIFE
    O – wrap it all around you, let it increase in size by family & friends
    V – take the V and be VICTORIOUS over satan
    E – take the E – and live ETERNALLY with God in heaven.

  4. bless u soo much for this word. you have really given me insight about what love really is for my church debate on love, faith and hope, which am love. thank you soo much. God richly bless u with abundant knowledge to the word of God

  5. Excellent & well defined topic!
    Thanks for placing me to the right perception about Love and its full definition.
    Am absolutely heading the right direction. May God bless us all……..Amen!!!

  6. Well I agree to ur point love is not selfish,is not lustful,is not temporary. Love is sacrifical, its not about being inseperable its about hearts being linked always even when seperated , its eternal beyond time, its just not about defining its more about feeling from the depths of ur heart. I have felt it once nd I still feel it, even if my loved one is very far apart from me , even if fate has made us apart , I still thank god hundred times for making me realize one of the most rearest nd precious thing in the world. Thank you god nd I promise to never forget this feeling in my heart till death, its just not a promise to god but to also my first nd true love. Even though I m not a christian I still believe, love, respect nd thank jesus for everything. Even though my god nd my religion is different I still believe god is one which is of no religions, no rituals,no practises but of only humanism and love.

    1. Tanu. Real love has nothing to do with humanism or emotion. Real love is the standard and attributes outlined in God’s word (1 Cor 13:4-8).

      1. Your are also to love others as you do yourself. I would hope that just as God loves me someone would have the guts to look out for me. True love is not a push over, true love is also telling someone no and stop. Cause if I was acting like a fool, I would expect someone to love me enough to stop me. That is how I would treat my self. And I know God would too.

  7. TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN’ I THANK U FOR THE WORD BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT WE NEED THAT REAL LOVE THAT TRUE WORG AND I LOVE WAHT U SAID ABOUT LOVE IS NOT RUDE LOVE DONT SEE NO EVIL LOVEDONT THINK NO EVIL LOVE IS PURE FAITHFUL HUMBLE GENTLE I CAN GO ON AND ON BECAUSE I LOVE JESUS BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED MEAND THAT WHY I CAN LOVE OTHERS BECAUSE I LOVE JESUS THANK U AND U HAVE A BLESS DAY MAY GOD BE WITH U

  8. I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR PUTTING THIS ARTICLE OUT THERE I FELL SHORT OF GOD’S MEANING OF LOVE AND I’M WORKING ON BEING MORE LIKE HIM. THIS WAS STRAIGHT TO THE POINT AWESOME ARTICLE. KEEP IT COMING CAUSE I GOT ALOT TO LEARN.

  9. I must say I am touched by this message of love. It is a great one as I have been struggling to Love. Thank you so much. I will save this page so that God willing, I will share it with someone else.

  10. I know the Lord led me to this page and I thank you so much for this. It really blessed my soul and has given me a foundation upon which to build all my relationships in true Godly love. I came to this page after doing a google search for “what is true biblical love”. I’m a divorcee. I married someone I knew during high school and shared a friendship with for over 10 years but I also knew he was someone I didn’t want to marry but time, impatience, no relationship with the Lord and lust took over. I found myself bound up in a sin lifestyle with this man. We lived together and had our daughter prior to our marriage…then after all that we got married. I’ve been divorced for 4 years now and I realized that I married someone that I didn’t love but lusted for. I had no clue what love was and I entered into a holy union under unholy circumstances.

    As a result, I’ve experienced so much loss, hurt and pain. Just today I repented and asked the Lord to forgive me for my choices regarding that relationship, marriage and ultimately divorce. I was so out of order and deceived. I thank God today for a repented heart, my re-committed walk to Jesus, for God’s saving grace and for preparing me for what He has next for me to do for His Kingdom.

    Thank you.

    God bless you.

  11. I was asking the. Lord to help me really understand his love, and what love is. I knew in my heart I had not have the truth. This was so real. Thank you Jesus. Thank you for this series. I need this.

      1. Thank you. Iam going to move slow with this. It so important. I loss so much for misunderstanding love and wanting it do badly. Thank you again for allowing God to use you

  12. This is what I really needed know. Thank you so much for this article and information. My heart and soul are at ease knowing, that I have taken the right path into True Love. Not as the world sees it, but on God’s living word. I’m so blessed by this reminder it has confirmed why I have chosen the path of peace, love and joy of knowing the difference between love and lust.
    May the Lord Bless you richly as I have been blessed by this website.

  13. This is an awesome article about love! But my husband disagrees. He believes that love is a feeling. Does that mean he doesn’t truly love me?

    1. CMC,
      It just means that your husband has his own interpretation of Love, one that’s NOT found in scripture. I don’t know if he truly loves you or not. Some people practice the attributes of love without knowing it, but real love can be seen by how well he treats you according to the standards of the bible.

      1. Thank you for your response! I’ll continue to pray that God will reveal himself to my Husband..Although, I could copy and forward many key many points from your article to him 🙂 Again, great article!
        Blessings

        1. Glad the article was helpful. Feel free to share! And Yes, prayer can change a lot of things! Keep praying for him. God can move on his heart.

  14. Although I’m not interested in joining the discussion at this time, I am profoundly moved by your explanation and Clarity of what God means love is. I could not agree with you anymore and want to know every single thing you have written about this subject and more. Would you please advise me of all your Publications writings excetera? Also any other recommendations you have of readings? Thank you for sharing the true word of God. Stay blessed

  15. I guess God had pointed me in your direction because I was having issues dealing with my mother-in-law. Over the years, she’s hurt my feelings and I’m disgusted in her. All she did was lie to her relatives and to me about all kind of things. First of all, she left my husband’s father. They’ve been separated for years. However, she moved on with another man and then after twenty years my husband and I found out that she was still married. She destroyed my father in laws life to point where my husband I became his caregivers. Eventually, my father-in-law passed away. My mother in law wouldn’t help us bury him. Now, I didn’t have a perfect relationship with my mother in law but over the years I’ve opened up my home and my heart to have her be apart of our family. After being called pretty much every name in the book, over the phone. I found out that she didn’t bad mouth me around her family. In fact, it was the complete opposite. I was praised in front of her family and bashed over the phone. The whole situation gave me depression because I didn’t really know too many people going through what I’ve been through. Therefore, when my mother in law got sick. People began to talk about her and her deceptive ways and it was shocking. Well, my mother in law went to her favorite sons house and was pretty much suffering from elder abuse. She was admitted to the hospital and she doesn’t have health insurance. No one in her family wanted to care for her. Not even her favorite son, wanted to care for her. Its a heartbreaking story that I know that some people go through. However, I found myself over the years crying because I couldn’t why people acted in strange ways. Here this woman did so much dirt to hurt people and the same people she hurt was the same ones she needed. I remembered one of her friends saying that she felt alone. I just need people to pray for people like myself because sometimes its hard to forgive people when they hurt your feelings. I’m still learning to push through and think like Jesus because I do believe love isn’t about feelings but its how you treat people. If you treat people right in this life then you should feel right knowing that you lived right. However, when you do wrong then that’s when you have to worry, scheme and lie to get your way in life and that doesn’t last forever because in the end God always reveals the truth.

    1. Sunny, I’ll pray for you.
      I understand the difficulty of forgiveness, but in time, God will and is the only one who can give you the power to forgive. If you continue to go to him about forgiving your mother-in-law, you will eventually will. Your experience is not uncommon and many people have been able to forgive the most hurtful things in life. I’m a living witness. Here’s a few articles/audio on the subject of forgiveness: How to forgive | Dealing with people who mistreat you and What Jesus said about Forgiveness

  16. Praise His precious name for His WORD and helper (HOLY SPIRIT) for I was truly blind… LOVE this- thank YOU for sharing.. My prayer is to walk in His LOVE

  17. I appreciate the foundation you’ve laid on this topic, Neal. A solid Biblical insight into the WHAT of love. I’d like to explore the WHY of love? Why are we moved to love? What are our motivations to love. And, even though we may have a proper understanding of the ‘what’ of love – as you’ve rightly described – can we love for the wrong reasons (the wrong ‘whys’)?

    1. Love only comes from God because God is love. The reason why we love is because God is in us. Only the saints of God born of the Spirit of God have authentic love.

    1. Yes. Jesus said, “If you love me, Keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Obeying God’s laws and direction is love towards Jesus. We can’t love God without doing those things. However, this article is about love towards each other, your fellow man, and what it looks like.

  18. I havent bee on here in a few days. Reading my bible daily though. Just finished day 31. I’m follwing the you version one year bible plan King James version. Just found your audio files that was a nice change, being able to listen. I still struggle with self pity and feeling like a loser because of the poor state of my marriage. I am ok now after listening to the love audio. I am not patient, bring up past mistakes and unsupportive. I am changing that. No words will change the past so I must love him regardless, even if it’s not romantic. God can turn it around if I am lovingly obedient to his word.

  19. God bless you brother. I was searching about the meaning of love biblicaly, and i have chacked a lot of sites. and it helps me to study bible again to know more about love. let me ask you somthing, do you think the ultimate level of love is marriage? do you think love is beyod marriage? what is your view about marriage and true love?

    1. The ultimate level of love is in found John 15:13 which says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus did this for us BEFORE we became his friends (Romans 8:5). God is love. Marriage is a mirror to the relationship Christ has with his bride the Church. Marriage is just another kind of relationship. You can express great levels of love to anyone.