What is love? A comparison of definitions

What is love? A comparison of definitions

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“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

The thirteenth chapter about love in 1 Corinthians is often read at weddings. I even have it in a cross-stitch gift from my sister. Many of us are familiar with it, but have we ever really asked ourselves if we love this way? The definition of love it gives is how God loves us. As humans though, I think we often fall short.

Even now on this Valentine’s Day as we all focus on sending valentine cards, flowers, candy, or love notes to loved ones, do we love others this way? As Christians, we’re supposed to love others even if they mistreat us. That’s difficult. Christ’s love has to flow from us for that. I can’t love someone that way on my own.



What is love? According to 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is 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.”

That’s different than the definition in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (fourth edition) which says love is “a deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness” or “a feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person with whom one is disposed to make a pair”.

The type of love we celebrate at Valentine’s Day is the one described in the dictionary, but the kind of love we should aspire to is the one in the Bible.



I’ve met people who exemplify the kind of love mentioned in Scripture. The women who helped me find my way in homeschooling were examples of patience. My questions seemed endless at the time. Their encouragement helped me to persevere.

Some women at my church come to mind when I think of kind. When I greet them, I feel loved. They exude kindness. Wrapped in a hug, defenses come down. A person feels accepted. Kindness listens not just with ears, but with eyes and heart.

How refreshing it is to meet people who don’t envy or boast. Jealousy hurts. It hurts the green person as much as the person targeted because jealousy feels like rejection. Insecurities feed jealousy. Knowing this doesn’t make the situation any less uncomfortable.  What a blessing it could be if we could all just be happy for the blessings bestowed upon others. Boasting seems related to pride, but I also think those most vocal may be insecure. Fear is the opposite of love.

The current state of our culture seems full of hate. I think it is because people have become rude, not treating others as they would like to be treated. We’ve become self-seeking, thinking more and more about ourselves and what’s in it for me rather than thinking about others and what’s best for us. If we think about what is best for someone else, we are too busy serving and helping to be rude.

Watching the news, it is easy to see how easily angered people are. Pointing out another’s mistakes over and over just feeds the anger and injustices. Focusing and delighting on evil brings more attention to the bad. I think that is why when others are forgiving and thankful in whatever the circumstance, it is so refreshing and life giving.  Finding the truth does bring relief or rejoicing because it brings freedom.


Perfect love

We all make mistakes. Forgiving and protecting others builds us up rather than tearing us down. In doing so this promotes trust and hope and the willingness to try again, to work to improve, to not give up.

I don’t offer a perfect love, but I know the One who is perfect love. He helps me. While I may backslide at times, He doesn’t give up on me. Because of His love, I want to love the right way.

I hope you are blessed with this love today. Happy Valentine’s Day!


Photo by Leighann Renee on Unsplash


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