What is Love? Ask Not What Others Can Do for You…

The Bible teaches us to “Walk in love,” or as another translation puts it, “Live a life filled with love.” (Ephesians 5:2)  But to be able to do that, we first need to understand what that word really means.  Our culture today certainly seems to have a lot of ways to define love, but as it turns out, that’s nothing new.  Interestingly enough, the Greek language (which the New Testament was originally written in) has several different words that are all translated into English as “love,” and they have different meanings and applications.  For example, there’s storge (storgé), which is family love, and philia, which is more like friendship.  There’s also eros, which is physical attraction.  But then there’s agape (agápē).  This is the big one, and it’s all over the Bible, including the scripture above.  Dictionary.com says that, “agape is often defined as unconditional, sacrificial love,” or even, “Christian love.”  Agape shows up again when Jesus says:


This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13 ESV)

So what does this really mean for our daily lives?  How do we carry out the directive to live a life filled with love that is unconditional and sacrificial?  Well, to start with, it means we don’t just help out when we feel like it, or when it’s convenient.  We can’t limit our acts of love to when it’s easy or appreciated, or when we’re going to get something in return.  It’s not based on a feeling, but instead it’s a decision to put others’ needs ahead of our own.


Love is laying your life down for the other person. It is not what you’re going to get out of it. It is what you can do for them. (excerpt from Learning to Love in the Hard Places, by Dr. Chester C. Pipkin Jr.)

So from God’s perspective, love is all about taking the focus off of our own objectives and interests, and paying attention to someone else’s.  That’s the way God loves us, and He wants us to do the same.  Of course, this is easier said than done!  Learning to walk in love is a lifelong process, and the same loving God who calls us to follow His example also gives us the grace and help that we need to do it all along the way.  Now that’s agape!