Love: Its true meaning and significance

Love is probably one of the most misunderstood words. We all talk about love, but the expression of it in our everyday life with respect to our families and further more in the community, highlights a lack of it. From where can we source love and what is its true meaning? This we can only discover by reading the wonderful word of God, the Holy Bible.

“God is love”. (1 John 4:16). Historically, love existed before the creation of man, because it is the man characteristic of God. To us it was revealed through Jesus Christ and his plan of salvation through his sacrifice on the cross.

The love of God is initially expressed in the relationship of love. The synoptic gospels refer to the word “well pleased” with reference only to Jesus Christ. After the baptism of Jesus in Jordan and His transfiguration, a voice was heard from heaven, the voice of God the Father: “This is my Son,, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) also found in: (Matthew 1:5), (Mark 1:11, 9:7) and (Luke 9:35). This love is mutual. Before the crucifixion, Jesus Christ had stated: “but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” (John 14:31). God is the source of love, Jesus Christ is the personification and embodiment of love. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16). Jesus is the revelation of God’s love.

We also see the love of God expressed towards the world, towards all of mankind. God created us in a wonderful way and loved us from the start. This is how King David ex­presses this love: “I praise you be­cause I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalms 139:14). Man sinned and rebelled against God. We followed our own path. God however never ceased to love us: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). Our salvation is a gift which stems from God’s love. We need to repent with honesty, humble ourselves before God acknowledging our sin, and to believe in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). The focal point of our deliverance is in the death of Jesus, in this extraordinary expression of godly love. God through his love gave us worth, otherwise we would have been worthless and eternally ruined. God’s love has enabled us to become worthy and precious in the eyes of God. God’s love has redeemed us.

What is our response to the love of God? The Word of God com­mands us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbour as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

This however is impossible to achieve without having been reborn by the Spirit of God. Once we are re­born, our attitude toward God and our fellow man changes from within. We love God because he first loved us. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:10-12). Jesus Christ tells us: “A new command I give you” Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35).

When Jesus gives us a com­mandment, he also gives us the strength to execute it. Love is the main characteristic of a genuine Christian. It is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience…” (Galatians 5:22) and it is given to us if we genuinely seek it. The love of Jesus is not expressed with words. This love is practical and real and is extended even towards our enemies.

In 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, the apostle Paul has written a chapter on love which is considered to be the greatest spiritual gift: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 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 have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, is it not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perse­veres.

Love never fails.. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”