What is Love? (Part 1)

I want to address a simple, yet incredibly important question for each of us to discover in our healing and freedom journey. “What is love?”

This question seems so simple, yet it is a subject that we can so easily gloss over. Meanwhile, every soul on the planet has a need to experience love.

But do we know what we are even talking about when it comes to love? Do we know what love is?

The truth is, you and I long to be loved. To be loved by God. To look at ourselves with eyes of love. To love God. To experience love from other people. To love others fruitfully.

Love is a foundational and necessary ingredient for our lives. It has been my heart passion to help people experience healing, freedom and transformation in the love of God. It is also my fundamental belief that the majority of struggles and breakdowns in our lives stem back to a disconnect from and/or distortion of what the true love of God is.

This love of God, revealed in the work of Jesus Christ, has the power to awaken, heal and lead our hearts into dynamic transformation. It seems like masses of believers have skipped past the love of God or seem to be disconnected from how powerful His love is.

But let me take it further. Do we even know what we are looking for when we talk about God’s love? What does it mean when you say “God loves me?” Also . . . Are we also aware of the battle that wages over our hearts truly experiencing the depth of God’s love?

The reality is that for so many, love has been absent, compromised or distorted in their relationship experiences. Therefore, many are left with very few healthy references on how to allow God’s love to transform how they do relationships.

This leaves many well meaning believers to ask an honest question, which simply says, “What is love?”

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What is Your Reference for What Love Means?

And I want you to get honest. What does it “really” mean to you, not something you can just quote. 

When the word “love” is mentioned, for all of us, it will trigger many different pathways as far as what it means.  

For some, it’s just head knowledge with no experience. 

Many of us use the word love so much we don’t even know what it means anymore. We love God. We love pizza. We love movies. We love our family. We love a pair of shoes. We love a restaurant. Are we diluting the meaning of love when we do that or do we just lack a wider emotional vocabulary?

But in all honesty, many have never known what love is to begin with. 

If you say, “I don’t even know what love is.” that’s ok. It’s better to be honest than to just pretend you know when you don’t.  

The reality is that for so many of us, our references for what true love is have been damaged, distorted or left empty. So this impacts what we look for when we talk about love. 

Here is a another question, “Who modeled true love for you?” Who is a living example that demonstrates the power of love for you to learn and experience it? 

We often do not know how to experience true love, how to look for true love or how to grow in what love looks like, because we don’t know what love is. 

We are just not quite sure what love looks like. We all want it, but often don’t even know what we are looking for. 

You can learn about love all day long, but the reality is . . . 

Love Must Be Experienced

It is important to note that love cannot be summed up in just one word, or even one sentence. It is so multifaceted and powerful, but it works in so many meaningful ways. 

But we need to know that love is a matter of the heart that must be experienced. We can talk about love all day long and give 500 definitions for love, but at the end of the day, there must be a relationship experience to what love does in our hearts and lives. 

Each time you experience true love, you gain a reference for what it is like. Love is no longer a theory, but an experience that leads us deeper into the fulfillment of relationship connection.

God is Love

It is imperative that we first understand that God is love. (1 John 4:8) He doesn’t just have love, God is the very essence of love. So if you experience love in this life, you have connected to an aspect of God’s nature. 

Any connection with true love is actually meant to awaken your heart to God in a personal way. Love is meant to point you to the Father, because love is who He is. 

That love is meant to invite you to Your Creator. Every encounter with love is a signal from heaven of God’s eternal love for you, which was shown in how Jesus gave His life for you, as an act of love. 

God is love, and He designed for you to experience that love, from Him, but also from those who are in your life. 

  • You were made for love. 
  • You were made to receive love. 
  • You were made to love powerfully love. 

With this in mind, it is important to know that love must be experienced between us as human beings. God Designed Us to Love One Another

God designed that through our human experiences in loving each other, we would learn together about the love of God in deeper and profound ways.

Jesus stated this very important precept when He said in John 13:34-35

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

One of the key marks of Christ followers is their ability to live in the power of love. We actually learn who God is by how we experience loving relationships, one with another. 

Why is this important to mention? Because human relationships are where our reference for love becomes broken down. This leaves us with a very flawed understanding for what love even looks like. 

It is also important to become aware that there is an absolute war, an invisible war, being waged over your ability to receive love and give love out effectively. That resistance you feel about your life and relationships does not simply arrive out of nowhere. The thief, who arrives only to steal, kill and destroy, knows that if your love capacity is damaged, it will infect every single area of your life. That is why if you look around, there seems to be so much war, tension, strife, division, heartache, pain, heart ache and emotional damage that all seems to center around our relationships. We are all in need of healing. 

That is why we must all learn to become more equipped for this battle. For we all need healing and maturing in how we love. It is imperative that believers allow their hearts to grow in receiving God’s love and giving it out in fruitful ways. 

A foundational understanding of how love works is found in the Scriptures in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. 

Ephesians 3:14-19: For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

It is interesting that being filled with the fullness of God is connected to knowing the love of God. 

God’s Love Causes You to Become:  

  1. Rooted: to strengthen with roots, to render firm, to fix, establish, cause a person to be thoroughly grounded 
  2. Grounded: to lay a basis, the lay the ground, lay the foundation, settle, to make stable, establish 

Love is Multifaceted

Now it is important to note. Love is so multifaceted, that it is challenging, nearly impossible, to summarize in one word or even in one sentence. 

Like a rare and beautiful diamond, experiencing love is really encountering a facet of love. Just when you’ve experienced an aspect of love, you can become illuminated with another facet of how love can impact your life and the lives of others. 

Amazingly, no matter where you are on the journey of “love learning,” you are only scratching the surface. Whether you have been a Christian for one year or fifty, you’ve only just begun to discover the depth and the height that is available in experiencing the love God designed you to embrace. 

So it is important to always be in a process of learning more of what love is, so we can continue to move deeper into what it means and mature into the fullness of what true love brings into our lives. 

So to lay down some important fundamentals, here are some key aspects of love that may help you enhance your journey of love with God, yourself and those around you. 

The first thing we need to understand is that: 

#1 Love Moves Us Towards Someone in Relationship 

One aspect of biblical love, which in the New Testament Greek word agapaō, a verb, which starts off with a meaning of “to welcome.” There is an invitation to bring you in. Like someone attending an extravagant feast, love welcomes you into the relationship connection and bond that is available. 

Love invites us into relationship. This needs to be intentionally received. 

Moving forward, love causes us to develop, mature and enhance a healthy connection between two people. Love is the relational atmosphere needed to foster any truly connected relationship. 

Love cultivates a bond with someone. We become knit together. The more healthy a bond in a relationship is, the stronger the outcome of that relationship. 

We know that “two are better than one.” 

We are designed to live in loving relationship. 

Relationship is what life is all about. 

Without relationship connection, people can emotionally and even physically erode. 

You were not made to live alone. Love is what brings people together into the connection and community you were made to experience. 

You and I were made to be loved and to love others, thus building relationship bonds in a healthy and fruitful way. 

God is not just focused on your relationship with Him, He wants you to have fruitful and loving relationships with those around you. 

You see, God is the creator of love. It is who He is. He is the original designer for the power that love relationship brings about. The entire Gospel revealed in Jesus Christ is meant to lead us into loving connection with Father God. That connection brings us into becoming sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. 

This relationship is built on receiving the love He has for you. 

Father God loves you. Therefore He moves towards you. 

God models love by letting us know He loved us first. He initiated love. 

John discovered this when he wrote: 

1 John 4:19 We love Him because He first loved us. 

God started love and continues to move towards us in His love. He welcomes us with His love. 

But are we aware of this great love being sent our way? 

Seems so many, even well meaning believers, struggle to connect to God’s love. 

Many have not been taught the importance of receiving. 

Notice how many of our battles cause us to run away from Him? 

Notice how so many of us try to do a bunch of things to prove that we are worth being loved by Him? 

The key to the love of God is not running from Him or trying to do things for His love. It’s about learning to receive this amazing love that He initiated for you. That’s the grace of God at work. 

Love is who God is. Grace is how He delivers it. We experience His love and grace by learning to receive His love and letting it influence our thoughts, emotions and actions. 

This is a journey. Learning to be loved and letting it impact every aspect of our life. 

But you cannot skip over the importance of love. Love needs to have a work in every area of our life. 

You also cannot just learn about love in a classroom and expect to master it. 

Let me give you spoiler alert: YOU NEVER ARRIVE WHEN IT COMES TO LOVE. You are always learning, always growing and always maturing in what love means. 

Many people think that intellectual assent is all they need to learn about love. They accumulate mounds of information about love. The problem is, you could gather all the intellectual knowledge in the world about love and yet still never experience what true love is. That is why many Christians can tell you all day long about the love of God, yet not live it. Christians who focus on intellectual assent can win arguments and sound impressive, yet still lack the greatest gift, which is love. 

I am constantly reminded of Paul’s profound and honest exhortation of how meaningless things can be if love is not present in the midst of it all. 

 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

So where is God’s love meant to show up? In our day to day relationships. 

To put this into practical application, love must be experienced in our hearts through the relationship interactions we have. The question we have to ask ourselves is, “Are the relationships I am interacting with helping me to learn to give and receive the love of God in meaningful ways? Am I growing in the love of God through my relationship interactions?” 

From the start, love sets the stage of relationship–you are welcomed in. 

When you are loved in a relationship, you first feel accepted to actually be in that relationship. The welcoming power of love receives you into connection. You are invited in. You are welcomed. You can be yourself. With true love, you are received in your current state and condition. This is the unconditional power of love. Are you flawed? Do you have sin? Is there healing and growth that needs to happen in your life? Do you have lots of issues? Of course . . . But when love is set as a foundation, the priority is to bring you into relationship connection. It’s in the arena of relationship is where we are transformed. 

You do not change yourself and then experience relationship. You cannot fix yourself enough to be loved. You do not “do better” so that you can be loved. You cannot earn this love. You first say yes to God’s love which invites you into relationship, into a journey. 

When love is at work, the highest aim of the relationship is the building and improving of that relationship. The more love is at work in two people, the better the relationship becomes. True loving relationships do not leave us as we are, but move us into growth, healing and maturity. When my relationships grow, I grow. But we do not grow apart from loving acceptance being established. For without love being rooted in our hearts, we will seek to earn love through performance, a deadly trap that many of us are seeking to heal from. 

When true love is at work, your relationship is enhanced. You grow. You cannot help but change, heal and be transformed when you experience the power of being loved. You mature. Your style of relating improves. You demonstrate more of the fruit of the Spirit in your life. 

Here is a key marker for discerning love in your life. When love is at work, it moves our hearts towards another person, not away. Loving compassion always moves our hearts towards the good and blessing of others. We want better for them. We rejoice over their potential. We want to see good take place in their life. We develop thoughts and perspectives towards the enhancement and improvement of the relationship. Even if we cannot be around a person, simply because they are so toxic or even dangerous, we can learn to have a heart of compassion towards how we see them in our hearts. 

When love is present, how we see everything changes. 

When love is absent, it causes all kinds of bondage to increase. 

  1. So a question I want to leave you with is, “how can you position your heart to simply acknowledge and learn to receive the amazing love that God has for you,” which He showed in the life of Christ? How can you experience more of God’s love, knowing that He set the table to move towards you? 
  2. How can you develop a more loving view towards yourself, where you can see yourself through the lens of God’s love for you?
  3. What would it look like to carry a more loving and gracious perspective regarding the people in your life?  

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