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What is Love? 4-Ways to Recognize Real Love

When Renita and I went through pre-marital preparation with our Campus Pastor at Purdue University, we used a great workbook entitled, Before You Say “I Do” by H. Norman Wright and Wes Roberts. As a matter of fact, we often use this workbook when we mentor pre-marital couples. During lesson three the question was asked, “What is Love?”

Some of the answers from the book were quite bizarre:

  • “Love is a feeling you feel when you get a feeling that you’ve never felt before.”

  • “Love is a perpetual state of anesthesia.”

  • “Love is a grave mental disease.”

  • “Love is a find, a fire, a heaven, a hell–where pleasure, pain, and sad repentance dwell.

First Corinthians13:4-8 is my favorite passage of scripture about love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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.

These verses portray beautiful sentiments about the nature of love. I think most people, whether they’re a follower of Jesus Christ or not, would agree that the verses convey their aspirations of what they would like to experience in their relationships. In these five short verses, the Apostle Paul beautifully describes the nature of true love. In my blog post Experiencing Enduring Love, I wrote that the Greek word for love used in these verses is agape which is the highest form of love. It denotes the sacrificial, self-giving nature of God’s actions toward mankind. That’s the kind of love expressed in these verses.

When you dig into this scripture passage, you’ll see that Paul spells out four categories of love where he describes:

1. What love is

2. What love is not

3. What love does

4. What love does not

As you read the following list of attributes describing the nature of love, think about how well these qualities are expressed in your relationships, especially with your spouse.

#1 - Love is...

1. Patient: Bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance with calmness.

2. Kind: Of a sympathetic or helpful nature.

#2 - Love is not...

3. Proud: Having or displaying excessive self-esteem, or ego.

4. Self-seeking: ambitious, aspiring, go-getting, hard-driving, pushing

5. Easily angered: a strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism

#3 - Love does...

6. Rejoice with the truth: Truth is the body of real things, events, and facts

7. Always protects: To cover or shield from exposure, injury, damage, or destruction

8. Always trusts: To place confidence in

9. Always hopes: To expect with confidence

10. Always perseveres: To persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counter influences, opposition, or discouragement.

#4 - Love does not...

11. Envy: Painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage

12. Boast: To praise oneself extravagantly in speech

13. Dishonor others: To treat in a degrading manner

14. Keep a record of wrongs: Doesn’t keep a history of injustices suffered

15. Delight in evil: No gratification or pleasure in misfortune, wrongdoing, misfortune, calamity

16. Fail: To fade or die away.

All of that from just five verses of scripture! If you’re like me, you probably fall way short of meeting God’s love standard. But don’t despair because here's the good news. Your heavenly Father sent the Holy Spirit to live and abide with you. And the Holy Spirit isn't just along for a ride, He’s promised to empower and teach you how to live out every precious gift that He’s placed inside you.

As a matter of fact, Paul wrote in Romans 5:5, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Now that you have a better understanding of what love is, ask God to help you to demonstrate his love to the people that you encounter every day, and remember to give extra special attention to your spouse.


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