1 John 4:7 NIV

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

Whoever loves has been born of God? I'm pretty confident that the majority of people, religious or not, would argue that they know how to Love and that they show their love for people on a daily basis.

So what does Love mean to God?

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    This question looks like it has a duplicate What is the non-abstract definition of love according to the Bible?
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Sep 26, 2011 at 15:05
  • @NeilMeyer I think this question is slightly different. Jonathon answered the "duplicate" post a month prior to asking this question, so I am assuming he wasn't meaning to ask the same question he already answered.
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 16:46

4 Answers 4


It would be best here to start from how love is defined in 1 John itself.

In the gospel we have the ultimate display of love. We hate God, and yet God loves us so much that he sent his Son to die for us. In 4:9-11:

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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

There's a similar verse in Rom 5:6-10 which raises the point that people would hardly even die for a good/righteous person, let alone sinners.

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. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

So this is the kind of love we are to practise. You may say that Christians and non-Christians alike practise love on a daily basis. But often it stops where it becomes difficult and you must love someone who does not love you, or where you've been offended and you must forgive. Generally speaking, I think the world's standard of love today is to love as long as it feels good or where we get something back.

But this is not to say that Christians always truly love. In reality I think we often fail. Otherwise, 1 John would not need to teach and exhort his readers: 'let us love' (4:7). But the difference for Christians is that we have a reason to love others, even when it is not easy, because God loved us first. If you don't, then it is likely because you don't appreciate what God has done for us (Mat 18:23-35). To learn to love we need to begin with and continue in the gospel.

See also: Eph 5:1-2. Phil 2:1-8. 1 Pet 2:21-25.


Love is of course a central theme to the Bible and examples of it can be found throughout - but arguably the most well known descriptions of it can be found in 1 Corinthians 13:

1 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 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. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, 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. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


"I'm pretty confident that the majority of people, religious or not, would argue that they know how to Love and that they show their love for people on a daily basis."

There is a kind of love, though, that people don't know how to do and don't show on a daily basis, that Jesus particularly associated with being born of God (Matthew 5:43-46, ESV quoted):

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

This kind of love isn't easy: while it's natural to love friends, and while there are charitable people who are willing to love strangers, it's very rare that a person will be willing to love enemies—people let hate come first, and if there's hatred it tends to preclude love. But this is not the example God has set for us with his own love (Romans 5:8):

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God's love led him to die for us 'while we were enemies' (v. 10).

There is a clear reason that this kind of love is necessary to being a truly loving person, though I'm not aware of any place the Bible itself makes it explicit; an example of the reasoning is given by Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching (49):

Those who are good I treat with goodness;

Those who are not good I also treat with goodness —

Virtue is goodness.

Just as being good to people means being good to people, regardless of anything else, being loving means being loving, regardless of anything else.


I think that this fragment can help one to find about a perfect love:

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

So the measure of perfect love that a Christian should try to attain is being equally good to all the people and expecting no reward for your love. This certainly isn't something that "majority of people" would claim they can do.

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