What Is Christian Love?

The Apostle Paul described love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Let’s look at that passage. It says, “Charity [here, the Greek agape or love] suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

That brief list of love’s attributes reveals that it always seeks the highest benefit of the person loved, with no thought for self. While love does have an emotional element, godly love is not, strictly speaking, a mere emotion. It is a personal, conscious commitment to always seek the highest good for others. That means we must have a universal standard for good and evil. If we cannot objectively define “good,” then we have no basis for love.

God revealed His moral principles in the Bible. Christians look within its pages to what God says is “good” and form the foundation for discerning true love. True love always steers people away from anything that would require the justice of God. Love seeks relationships, rather than judgment. This is why Jesus so closely associated the law and love in Mark 12:29-31, which says, “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Love is made possible by a firm grasp of God’s moral principles. Think for example of the commandment, “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:15). One who truly loved another wouldn’t steal from him. Neither would he commit adultery or murder. We are commanded to love. The word commandment implies judgment for not keeping it. In short, love serves relationships; justice answers lovelessness.

Love always moves others closer to God. The best example is the love of God Himself, who offered His own Son as a Sacrifice for sinful man. Jesus died on the Cross of Calvary willingly out of love for us. He paid our sin-debt with His life, dear reader, so that you and I could be rescued from eternal judgment, and instead have an eternal relationship with God the Father in heaven. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” His offer of salvation is free for anyone to take!

Jesus saved us, not only from the penalty of sin, but also from its power over us. Christians are not perfect, but God’s Holy Spirit empowers us to live in a way that pleases our Heavenly Father (Gal. 5:16). We are continually being conformed to the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). This means that old sinful ways are put aside in order to take up godly ways (Rom. 6:6; Eph. 4:22-24).

Jesus loves us, but He cannot love sin. On many occasions He chastened people for sin. On two specific occasions recorded in the Gospels He said “sin no more” immediately after showing love and mercy (John 5:14; 8:11). He loved and accepted the person, but He did not accept their sin. How could He? It was sin that separated them from God, and brought Him to the Cross. In fact, it would be impossible for Him to truly love the sinner, all the while allowing them to continue in the very thing that would eventually bring the judgment of God.

What does this mean as far as Christian love is concerned? When a Christian says, “I love you,” they are proclaiming a commitment to revealing God’s best for another. We are to love others, even if it means being ridiculed; even if it means being misunderstood. More particularly, when we tell our legislators that we love them, it means we are committed to telling them the truth, even if it isn’t popular. It is the greatest service we can do them as Christians.