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I received the following questions:

What is love? What does it mean to love God, especially in the context of Mark 12:30,31. And, what does it mean to love your neighbor? Does our attitude of love have different characteristics to non-Christians as to Christians? Does 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 have any ties? And, then is there a significance that is important to us when it love is mentioned as what seems better than faith and hope?

Another thing I would like to take in to consideration is Galatians 5:22-23, the fruits of the Spirit; I want to understand them more, this includes love, but the other qualities of the fruit of the Spirit I think are intertwined. And then, there is Colossians 3:12-14 where love is mentioned as binding the other virtues mentioned there.

So, you see, I really want to understand love.  And, maybe it is a thing that will take time.  Please examine these with me, and give any insight that you might have.  I think in order to love God, love others, and to love myself, I need to get a deeper understanding of what love is.

Ancient Greek actually had four words for love. Eros (pronounced AIR-awss), sexual love, is not mentioned in the Bible. Then there is storge, (pronounced STORE-gay), family love, like you would have for a brother or sister or parent or child. Philos (pronounced FEE-lawss) is friendship love, like you would have for a close friend. Agape (pronounced ah-GAHP-ay (gahp sounds like cop)) is the ultimate, God-like love, a love that lays down your life for the other person. All the majestic statements about love in the Bible are in reference to agape.

Mark 12:30. “‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

To love God here means to dedicate every part of your being to Him. This includes your heart, your innermost being; your soul, your deepest emotions and desires; your mind, your thoughts and decisions and opinions; and your strength, every bodily and mental power at your disposal. Yet ultimately these things are not meant to be exclusive, but to represent every part of your being. Everything is to be given into the hands of God. Laying down your life for God means living for Him. It can mean dying for Him too, of course, but sometimes living for someone can actually be harder than dying for him. It takes longer, at any rate.

Loving your neighbor as yourself means treating your neighbor as you would want yourself treated. It means caring about your neighbor just like you would care about yourself.

Both these commandments are very high standards to set, obviously, and often we all fall short of them!

We do have a very different relationship with our fellow believers than we do with unbelievers. We do definitely feel closer to those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Yes, I would have to say that a loving attitude towards a believer and an unbeliever will have different characteristics.

I Corinthians 13:4. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5. does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6. does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7. bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

These verses are setting forth the characteristics of true, agape love. Our love towards God should definitely look like this.

Faith and hope are wonderful and necessary, but love does exceed both of them. I know plenty of people who have both faith in God and hope in Him, and yet who demonstrate very little love for Him. Agape love is indeed better than either faith or hope.

Galatians 5:22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23. gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

I have heard it said that there is only one fruit of the Spirit mentioned here, and that is love. The other eight are just describing aspects of that love. Since in the Greek both fruit and “is” are singular, this appears to be right to me.

Joy is something that we have apart from circumstances. I can have joy even when I am not happy. Joy is something inside us that comes from knowing a loving God. It is a bubbling spring that it always there for our refreshment.

Peace is not an inner tranquility, though there is that. Rather, it is a true union. In the case of the fruit of the Spirit, it is a union with God, the One loved.

Patience is a valuable aspect of love. In the case of our love with God, we wait upon Him, even when He keeps taking annoyingly long to bring in His kingdom.

Kindness is another aspect of love that is most valuable. Being kind to others, even when they do not deserve it, is also an aspect of grace.

Goodness is just plain doing good. It can also be related to just being good, like wholesomeness. A good life will spill over into good fruit. True goodness comes from knowing and loving God. Ultimately, no one is good but God, as Christ said.

Faithfulness can be passive, in which case it involves being trustworthy. What could make you trust a person more than knowing that person truly loves you? And love makes one trustworthy as well. Faithfulness can also be active, in which case it means being full of faith. Love makes us believe God as well.

Gentleness involves a gentle and patient attitude. It teaches us to respond graciously to others’ faults, even when they might bug the dickens out of us. It is another aspect of grace.

Self-control is a critical part of love. Love gives us the power to not be hurtful, not be harsh, not be angry, even when we might feel like it or even have a right to be. It does not exclude discipline (talking from a parent-child type aspect,) but it does exclude a “discipline” that is really a parent being out of control. Love helps us not fly off the handle, gives us pause before making negative comments, and overall helps us hold ourselves back from acting upon our worst and least Godly impulses. This is self-control.

Colossians 3:12. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13. bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

Agape love is indeed the binding virtue that permeates all the others listed here. A spirit of this kind of love will result in all the attitudes mentioned.

I think it might be good to examine the Greek words I mentioned above, especially agape, and therefore get a better feel for what God is talking about when He talks about love. Here is a concordance search from Strong’s for agape:

http://cf.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=26&t=KJV

Here is one for the verb agapao, to agape love:

http://cf.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=25&t=KJV

Here is philos:

http://cf.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5384&t=KJV

Here is phileo, to philos love:

http://cf.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=5368&t=KJV

I couldn’t find storge, so maybe that one isn’t in the Bible either. There are a couple of combined forms, like husband-lover and children-lover using philos.

That would be my suggestion for where to go from here to learn more about love in the Biblical sense.

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