Meaning of Love

Love has so many meanings, yet we often only hear and speak of love within a romantic context. We see this “rose-colored” view of love all around us—littered throughout the media, our culture, and in surrounding relationships. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with romantic love, we often allow it to limit how we view, receive, and practice love in our own lives. When we limit the giving and receiving of love to romantic relationships, we miss precious opportunities to partake in love throughout the entirety of our lives. We need to redefine our view of love.

What is Love?

The Bible paints a much fuller picture of love. Love encompasses more than just emotional affection, and it is evident in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

These verses highlight that love contains more—a whole lot more—than what we usually assign to it. Just reading this view of love can be overwhelming, yet Jesus goes even further and calls us to love in this way. In Matthew 22:36-39, Jesus reveals the two greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Many of us have difficulty loving ourselves, much less loving God and others. How can we give and receive love of this high measure?

What it means to receive Love

There is a simple yet vital truth in realizing we are not capable of giving love of this measure. The truth is that God is the source of love. In fact, “God is love” (1 John 4:16). Nowhere has God’s love been more evident or bountiful than in Jesus and “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” (Romans 8:39). Since God is love, and we are not, we need to receive love from Him. We need to acknowledge that He is the only one that is capable of giving the fullness of love.

What it means to give Love

As we constantly receive this love from God, we can then turn and give it to others from a place of abundance. We no longer have to feel inadequate or incapable of giving the love that God requires of us because God is love. Whereas our attempts to love often leave us tired, discouraged, and empty, His source never runs dry.

1 John 3:1

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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