1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

 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.

This is one of the main verses Christians refer to when talking about love. I think this verse is helpful in showing the practical forms love takes but does not define what love is. Now I know that the English word for love is not as descriptive as the Greek are but those definitions deal with how we love (agape - unconditional) or who we love (filio - brotherly love). I want a non-abstract definition of what love is, not how, who, or why, according to the Bible. I imagine that it should take a look at many verses since I don't know of just one that lays it out, but I would be glad to be shown wrong.

3 Answers 3


The most overlooked topic ever

Love is exactly what the Bible is trying to teach us in my opinion. Too often do we use a very abstract meaning when throwing this word around, almost to the point that it has been completely deflated of it's value.

God recognized this more than two thousand years ago, and thus, gave us this command.

1 John 3:18 NIV

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Love for God is Obedience

The first and the most important commandment is that you Love God. But how can we do that with an abstract definition of the word? We cannot. God has told us to love with actions and in truth. The following commands are how we show God that we love Him.

2 John 1:6

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

1 John 5:3

In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,

2 John 1:6

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

It's no wonder why John was considered the Apostle of Love. How does this definition fall into place with the gospel? Love is the capstone of it all.

Galatians 5:6

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Some evidence of the power of Love in this context

Love/Obedience Purifies us

1 Peter 1:22

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.

Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for

Proverbs 16:6

Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD evil is avoided.


I can't give you a full definition, but an expression of the greatest possible love is given in John 15:13 (NASB):

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

This certainly does tell a lot about what love is.

I'm sure a lot of definitions for love can be given by first coming up with the definition and then finding the Bible passages to support it. I'm not so sure that a strict definition of love can be found in the Bible, even by combining all the possible passages.

After all, there are a lot of instances where Bible tells us to love (one another, our neighbors, our enemies...) and it always seems expected that we know what that means. Love is quite intuitive. The only passage which could suggest otherwise that I know of is Titus 2:3-4:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,

Even that seems to me rather to be about the difficulty of loving rather than not knowing how to love.


1 John 4:7-19 gives us an idea, particularly verses 6 and 18.

God is love, literally. I don't really know how to elaborate on that without corrupting it so I wont.

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