Have you ever wondered, “What does the Bible say about love?” If so, you are not alone. Join our guest blogger, Kristen Neighbarger in this post to find out.

It was only a couple of weeks before our wedding, and we finally sat down with our dear friend and pastor, Jeff,  who was going to marry us.

He opened his phone to his notes for our wedding, and I opened the Google Doc that contained my extensive notes and ramblings on our ceremony.

After we discussed the logistical details of our backyard wedding, I eased into my request for the scriptures referenced during our ceremony.

“So, I’m kind of thinking I’d really like you to stay away from I Corinthians 13…”

Jeff just chuckled, said he wasn’t even surprised, and assured me there were plenty of other scriptures he was thinking of using before I even had time to send him the list I had already picked out!

Weddings, Divorces, More Weddings, More Divorces…

Until my own wedding, I’m not sure I had ever been to a wedding where I Corinthians 13 wasn’t referenced in some way. 

That makes sense. 

I Corinthians 13 is “the love chapter” after all.

Most of us probably know at least part of the chapter by heart: “Love is patient. Love is kind…”

While I am inspired by the definition of love Paul gives us in I Corinthians 13, I’m a little disenfranchised by the flippancy with which it tends to be thrown around at weddings.

I’ve seen too many of those weddings end in divorce.

My first included.

So, when it came to my wedding this fall, I knew I didn’t want a flippant reading of scripture we have heard and ignored too many times in our lives–the same scripture that has been made into wall-hangings for so many of our bedrooms and living rooms.

I didn’t want those words to just float out there for the moment and be gone.

Instead, I wanted those words to be the definition of my life.

What Does the Bible say about Love?

Paul gives us a definition of love in I Corinthians 13 (TPT):

  • Love is large and incredibly patient. 
  • Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. 
  • It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. 
  • Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. 
  • Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. 
  • Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. 
  • Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. 
  • Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. 
  • Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up. 
  • Love never stops loving. It extends beyond the gift of prophecy, which eventually fades away. It is more enduring than tongues, which will one day fall silent. 
  • Love remains long after words of knowledge are forgotten. 

Our present knowledge and our prophecies are but partial, but when love’s perfection arrives, the partial will fade away.

Paul defines love for us by explaining what love is and what it’s not, what it does and what it doesn’t do.

What Love Is… and What Love Isn’t

Love is:

  • Large.
  • Patient.
  • Kind to all.
  • A safe place for shelter because it never stops believing the best for others.

Love isn’t

  • Jealous of someone else’s blessing.
  • Easily irritated.
  • Quick to take offense.

What Love Does… and What Love Doesn’t

Love does:

  • Joyfully celebrate honesty.
  • Find no delight in what’s wrong.
  • Extend beyond the gift of prophecy, which will fade away.
  • Endure longer than the gift of tongues, which will one day fall silent.
  • Remain long after the worlds of knowledge are forgotten.

Love doesn’t

  • Brag about achievements.
  • Inflate its own importance.
  • Traffic in shame or disrespect.
  • Selfishly seek its own honor.
  • Take failure as defeat because it never gives up.
  • Stop loving.

I look at this impressive definition, and I know this is the definition of love I need to employ daily in my relationships with my husband, my family, and my friends. I know if I could put this definition into practice more often, all my relationships would be much healthier.

What does the Bible say about Loving Others?

Applying true love can be hard enough in our closest relationships, right? What about our other relationships, though? 

Our acquaintances?
Our frenemies?
The people who really annoy us on a daily basis?
The ones who have hurt us?
The ones who have hurt our loved ones?
Our enemies?

In 1 John 1:7-13 (TPT–emphasis mine), John gives us clear direction about how the fruit of love is to be seen in our lives:

Those who are loved by God, let his love continually pour from you to one another, because God is love. Everyone who loves is fathered by God and experiences an intimate knowledge of him. The one who doesn’t love has yet to know God, for God is love.  The light of God’s love shined within us when he sent his matchless  Son into the world so that we might live through him.  This is love:  He loved us long before we loved him. It was his love, not ours. He proved it by sending his Son to be the pleasing sacrificial offering to take away our sins.

Delightfully loved ones, if he loved us with such tremendous love, then “loving one another” should be our way of life! No one has ever gazed upon the fullness of God’s splendor.  But if we love one another, God makes his permanent home in us, and we make our permanent home in him, and his love is brought to its full expression in us. And he has given us his Spirit within us so that we can have the assurance that he lives in us and that we live in him.

2 Things The Bible Says About Love

  1. God is Love.

Paul gave us this descriptive definition of love in I Corinthians 13, but John reminds us here that God himself is love. He embodies that very definition of love, which we see clearly when God sent his son into the world to give us life.

  1.  God’s love should continually pour from us to one another and be our way of life.

If we love one another, God makes his permanent home in us and we make our permanent home in him. God has provided us with his Spirit so we can know that God is in us and we can have the ability to love one another well.

1 Thing The Bible Doesn’t Say About Love

This is the part where I want Paul or John to use an asterisk and tell me there are people I don’t have to love, people who are exempt from this outpouring of love I’m supposed to be exuding.

They don’t do that, though.

No, instead of telling me I can ignore my enemies and not love them, the opposite is true. In Matthew 5:43-48 (TPT–emphasis mine), Jesus says:

“Your ancestors have also been taught ‘Love your neighbors  and hate the one who hates you.’ However, I say to you, love your enemy, bless the one who curses you, do something wonderful for the one who hates you,  and respond to the very ones who persecute you by praying for them. For that will reveal your identity as children of your heavenly Father. He is kind to all by bringing the sunrise to warm and rainfall to refresh whether a person does what is good or evil. What reward do you deserve if you only love the loveable? Don’t even the tax collectors do that? How are you any different from others if you limit your kindness only to your friends? Don’t even the ungodly do that? Since you are children of a perfect Father in heaven, become perfect  like him.”

This is one of the most challenging scriptures for me.

It’s one thing for me to be gentle, kind, and patient with those people I truly like and who are close to me, but Jesus commands me to love my enemies, bless those who curse me, do something wonderful for the one who hates me, and pray for those who persecute me.

That’s some heavy stuff right there.

Friends, it isn’t always easy to truly love our friends and family in the way the bible instructs, but it can definitely be even more of an obstacle and challenge for us to love our enemies and those who hate and persecute us in that manner.

If this is a struggle for you, you are not alone. 

Thankfully, as the Bible says, God has given his Spirit to fill us and remind us that we are his and he is dwelling in us. That spirit will give us the strength we need to truly love our neighbors and our enemies as God loved us.

It’s my prayer today that God will give you the wisdom, strength, and desire to love your friends, family, neighbors, and even enemies with the fervor and intensity of God himself.

Until Next Time,

About the Author

Kristen is a recovering fundamentalist who believes that truth, faith, and the sovereignty of God will survive deconstruction and are absolutely critical components of healthy reconstruction. She loves literary analysis and reading scripture with an analyst’s eye. She lives in rural Ohio with her husband–Russ, daughter–Kate, faithful dog–Lucy, and her grandma’s cat–Butters (that’s a story for another day). When her parents aren’t snowbirds, they join the party in their mother-in-law suite, affectionately referred to as Cabin B.

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