Love is giving to the basic needs of others so that their authorities get the credit, God gets the glory, and we have the joy of eternal rewards.
The primary Greek words for love are agapao and phileo. Agapao means “to love dearly, to be well pleased.” On the other hand, phileo means “to be a friend to (fond of [an individual or object]), i.e. have affection for.” The Greek word philanthropia means “fondness of mankind, i.e. benevolence, love of mankind.” The Greek word translated as brotherly love is philadelphia, which means “fraternal affection.”
When Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, Jesus used the stronger of these words—agapao, but Peter responded with the weaker term—phileo (see John 21:15–17). Jesus then told Peter about the suffering he would experience. If we respond to suffering with joy and thankfulness, we receive the power of the Holy Spirit with agape love. It is through suffering that our love is perfected and deepened. (See II Corinthians 12:9.)
Genuine love is the most important character quality. Every other quality must be motivated by it, or the quality will be empty and of no benefit (see I Corinthians 13:3). Agape love is the greatest commandment given by God (see Matthew 22:36–40). It is expected of a local church and is the badge of a true disciple (see John 13:35). It is one of the primary requests of Jesus in His final prayer for His disciples. (See John 17:23–26.)
God’s Description of Love
Because love is so important and there are many distorted ideas of what it is, God defines exactly what it involves in I Corinthians 13.
- Love is patient
It does not lose heart. It perseveres with patience and bravely endures misfortunes and troubles. It bears offenses and injuries with joy and confidence that a good reward will come from God’s hand.
- Love is kind
It looks for ways to be useful and acts benevolently. It is easy to be entreated and has the motivation of giving rather than taking. It focuses on people’s needs rather than on their faults.
- Love does not envy
It does not boil with desires to have that which belongs to others. It is not possessive of what has been entrusted to it. It is content with basic necessities and rich fellowship with the Lord.
- Love does not boast
It does not boast of its abilities or its accomplishments. It does not look for ways to promote itself or extol its virtues with rhetorical embellishments.
- Love is not arrogant
It does not cherish exaggerated ideas of its own importance. It does not look down on others with contempt or disdain. It is not proud.
- Love does not behave itself unbecomingly
It does not flaunt itself to attract attention or to stir up sensual desires in others. It does not act indecently or shamefully. It has good manners.
- Love does not demand its own way
It does not crave things for its own pleasure or profit. It focuses not on itself but on the needs of others. It is willing to lay down its life for the benefit of others.
- Love is not easily irritated
It does not get irritated or exasperated. It conquers anger and wrath. It is not quickly excited to rivalry but rather to helping others succeed.
- Love holds no thoughts of revenge
It guards its heart and mind and brings every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. It distinguishes between good and evil and rejects the evil. It does not retain wrong desires or plans and does not harbor hurtful feelings toward others.
- Love does not rejoice in wickedness
It grieves when evil people are promoted and unjust laws are made. It does not secretly desire to carry out the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, or the prideful goals of life.
- Love rejoices in the truth
It delights in God’s Law and meditates on it day and night. It dwells upon thoughts that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of a good report. It is eager to share truth with others and rejoices when truth prevails.
- Do you tend to envy the possessions or opportunities of other people?
- Do you enjoy telling about your achievements more than listening to the accomplishments of others?
- Do you know and practice good manners wherever you are?
- Do you easily get irritated or exasperated with others?
- Do you harbor grudges against those who have hurt you?
- Do you dwell on secret desires to fulfill the lust of the flesh?
- Do you meditate on God’s Word day and night and delight to do His will?