This is the age-old question…. What is true love? Many of us believe we are in love when we start to miss a person when they are not around, perhaps we have an experience and think “I wish this person was here to share this.” Maybe when we put their needs above our own i.e. you watch a movie of their choice rather than the one you have been desperately waiting to see. Godly love surpasses what we, as man are capable of, yet as Christians it must be our goal. We may believe that we are experiencing godly love when we feel we would lay down our life for another person, John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. Yet, how many of us would lay down our lives for a stranger, or still yet, an enemy, Jesus did, Romans 5:8 “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Love forms the basis of the two most important commandments which are present in all four Gospels, Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28 and John 13:34.
So, what does Godly love look like?
- Godly love shows honour, Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.” More than this it humbles us to the point that we care more for the one we love than we do our own selves. We put the needs of others above the needs of ourselves, we will go hungry in order that another can be fed.
- Godly love is everything, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing”. 1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”. Paul explains to us in these passages that love is everything, nothing compares with love, without love, one has nothing. It is the essence of God and without this essence we are dead.
- Godly love involves action, 1 John 3:18 “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” Love is not something that we merely say to each other but something visible, love is alive, love is action in our day to day lives.
- Godly love is familial, Hebrews 13:1-2 “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.” Love is not casual. It is not a complacent “Love Ya” that is so common on today’s society but the type of love that one has for his own flesh and blood, for we are all made in the image of God and within the church we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We are an eternal family.
- Godly love covers sin, 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” We see this in our day to day lives, how often have our children misbehaved and treated us badly but we smile and forgive them because we love them. We argue with our spouses then laugh it off because we love one another, were this an argument with a stranger we would surely not be so quick to forgive.
- Godly love provides for others, 1 John 3:17 “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” John is not just suggesting that we help each other out but insisting that if we do not do this and we do not have empathy for others that we do not have God within us at all! Paul also calls us to help each other, Galatians 6:2, Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.”
- Godly love rejoices in the truth, 1 Corinthians 13:6 “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Lies have no place in Godly love. Lies are not of God. Whenever we lie, we lie to God Himself, Acts, 5:1-4 “Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge, he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
- Godly love is our goal and our aim as Christians, Paul, in praying for the Thessalonians, asks for an increase in love, 1 Thessalonians 3:12 “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”
- Godly love is part of the fruit of the spirit Galatians 5:22,23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” The fruit of the spirit is all goodness. There is no law against these because in these there can be no evil.
- Godly love is patient and kind, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” Because we are so egocentric being patient can be exceedingly difficult for us, but we must strive for this virtue as this is part of Godly love.
- Godly love glorifies God, John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples if you love one another.” When we radiate love, we radiate Jesus. Others can see Jesus in us. If, while we claim to be Christians, we mistreat others, are self-centred, angry, etc etc. others will not see Jesus in a good light, they will not think that this is a God they want to follow. However, when they see kindness in the face of hostility, love in the face of hate, forgiveness in the face of bitterness, then they see our God for who He is, our loving God.
- Godly love even loves enemies, Lev 19:34 “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” Matt 5:43-48, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. We see in the Old Testament as well as the New this commandment to love one’s enemies. This is important in order to separate God’s people from the rest of the nations. When we think of the most evil people that we can imagine in history, these people still loved their families very much, therefore, it is having the capacity to love those who would harm you that shows the power and glory of God, our Father. Jesus taught us this beautiful in the Parable of the Good Samaritan:-
Luke 10:25-37 “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself”. “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
- Godly love is the Law and the Prophets, Matt 22:37-40 ”Jesus replied: “‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”. Gal 5:14, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Romans 13:8-10 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore, love is the fulfilment of the law”. When one is truly filled with Godly love, it is physically impossible to break the Law, if one has the love of God, one cannot steal from another, or murder, or blaspheme, the evil is not present because the love is too great!
God has demonstrated this love for us, 1 John 4:9 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.” God bore the pain of parting with His Son for us, the very people, who turned away from God, who would rise up against Him… God, our mighty Father humbled Himself, taking the form of man for us, for those who would blaspheme against Him.
God, in His very being is love. He does not just love as an emotion. His very person is love itself. 1 John 4:8 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
We cannot be separated from this love, Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I hope to come back to this again and cover this in more detail especially looking at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 so please check back soon!
Meantime, please meditate on the many Bible verses I have shared with you, pray about them and let us all try and live them out more and more in our day to day lives for God’s Glory and the advancement of His Kingdom.
Love and Blessings