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Love Defined by Jesus

Love is a tricky word to define. The world has one definition of love. God’s Word has another. With these differing definitions, how do we define love? How can we know what’s true?

How the World Defines Love

Love is cheap.

Love is selfish.

Love is conditional.

Love is based on sinful desires.

Love comes and goes.

This is how our society often portrays this four-letter word: love. This message is loud and clear as we flip through popular magazines, in the reports we hear on the news, when we sit down to watch the most recently released films, and when we crack open the latest romance novel. Our “fifty shades” society has tainted the truth about love.

How God’s Word Defines Love

We, of course, know how God’s Word defines love. We find it in the familiar verses in 1 Corinthians:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4–7)

As followers of the Word, we are not so easily sold on the lies society sells us about love. Right? Or do we surround ourselves with these lies? Do we read the latest top 10 article in the trashy magazine as we wait in line at the grocery store? Do we clamor to get tickets to the latest sleazy new release? Do we long for the loveless passion we read about or see on our screens? We claim to know how true love feels, sounds, looks.

But whose definition do our everyday decisions show we subscribe to—society’s or God’s?

St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Philippians:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:89)

How We Define Love

Where do our thoughts lie—with God’s definition of love or society’s? Do we think about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable? Do we put those thoughts into practice? Or do we long to have what the couple in the latest romantic comedy has, and dwell on that? Do we selfishly daydream about what we wish our spouse would do differently? Do we think our family members should be doing more for us to make us content in this life? Do we look for ways to put in little effort and make big gains? Do we put those thoughts into practice?

If we were honest with ourselves, we would need to repent of dwelling, from time to time, on the lies society tells us about love. We would need to admit that, at times, we surround ourselves with that definition more than we search God’s Word on the matter. We would need to repent of believing and practicing Satan’s lies about love: that it is cheap, selfish, conditional, based on sinful desires, and that it comes and goes.

How Jesus Defines Love

Instead of looking to our screens, books, magazines, or ourselves for illustrations of love, we look to God’s Son, Jesus Christ, to see a beautiful, pure, truthful illustration of love: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:910).

Through His incarnation, life, death, and resurrection, our Savior defeats Satan’s lies about love.

Our Savior shows us that love is not cheap. Instead, it is freely given:

 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.(Romans 5:68)

Our Savior shows us that love is not selfish through the most selfless act in human history:

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:4–6)

Our Savior shows us that love is unconditional by dying the death sinners deserved:

For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.(2 Corinthians 5:21)

Our Savior shows us that He has already forgiven us of the sinful desires that we so naturally revert back to because of our sinful flesh:

I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to Me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:22)

Our Savior shows that love does not come and go on a whim by offering constant forgiveness and love:

I will never leave you nor forsake you. . . . Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:5, 8)

When we find ourselves longing for the love our society has to offer, let us go to God’s Word to be reminded that a far greater love is already ours.

Christ’s love is constant.

Christ’s love is based on His desire to take up the cross.

Christ’s love is unconditional.

Christ’s love is selfless.

Christ’s love is freely given.


Love is more than just a word. Learn how to reflect Christ's love in Love Rules.

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Written by

Rebekah Janke

Rebekah lives with her husband, Tim in Dickinson, ND. She spends her time teaching 6th graders. When she’s not in the classroom, she enjoys spending time with her family and dogs, playing violin, and reading.

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