What is love?

Welcome to love-ology.

In the beginning God created man and woman, and ever since we have been asking questions about love, marriage, sex, and romance. What is love? What is marriage? What is the purpose of marriage? What really defines a marriage? What about divorce? Is sex wrong? 

Before we get into the questions about marriage and all the subjects that come with it, we first need to ask our selves What is love? If we listen to the way people use the word, even you, or even me; it would seem that we have no idea what love is.

Here is how I use the word love.

I love the Lord.  I love my wife.  I love my children.  I love my in-laws. I love family! 

I love the Word of God.  I love preaching and teaching.  I love studying and even just reading the Bible.

I love the church.  I love the people.  I love the worship.  I love pray.

I love music.  I love to listen to it.  I love to play it.  I especially love to play the drums.

I love basketball.  I love playing it.  I love coaching it.  I love the Tar Heels, though this year it’s been hard.

I love Outback.  I love steak.  I love granny smith apples.

I love the beach.  I love reeboks.  I love new clothes.


With all that I have listed we can begin to see how out of whack our use of the word ‘love’ can be.  I use the same word for what I feel for my wife and what I feel for a brand of shoes.  The love I have for my wife far surpasses anything I feel for a pair of Iverson’s. But I say that I love them both.  

We all do this.  We all say things like this and that means we all might need a little help because the word ‘love’ has become, in a sense, a junk drawer.  It’s a junk drawer that, unfortunately, the priceless relationships (between God and a person, between a husband and wife, parents and children) and the cheap items (clothing, food, and toys) are tossed in.  They get mixed in together, and because of this, priorities are missed placed.  Our relationship with God is now ranked no higher than our simple gratifications of the here and now.

From this, we can see, that we need to define love.  We need to give love a frame for us to live in.  We need a definition or a context to help guide our relationships with: God, our spouses, our children, and with one another, and everything else we think we love.

Many have tried to define love for us.  

Some would define love as tolerance.  That is still a battle cry for some, today.  Those that use tolerance as the definition for love are saying that we should not judge one another.  As long as we are not hurting one another, then it is ok.  Just let it be.   You have no right to tell me if what I am doing is wrong or right; sin or not.

This definition is rooted in the thought that the opposite of love is hate.  If you do not approve of something, think something is wrong,  think that something is out of line, and you say something about it; you hate.

But, the opposite of love isn’t hate.  The opposite of love is apathy.  The opposite of love is not caring what happens to another person.  The opposite of love is not caring for someone’s wellbeing.  There are times when you care enough for a person that you have to say something.  There are times when you care enough about a cause that you have to act.  Tolerance may be  a part love, but love is not tolerance alone.

To some love is described as passion.  You have passion for something.  But it can be anything.  You can have passion for music, a career, a sport, tacos, or hiking.  What is great about this definition is that your passion is allowed to change!  When I was in high school I loved to run, now, I don’t. It hurts too much.  What I want or choose to love can change.  That can set us up for some huge failures.

The next definition is that love is just not passion, but it is a deep passion.  And love is not just a deep passion for anything, but it is a deep passion (intense emotion) that shared between people.  And this sounds good.  It is probably the way most of us would attempt to define love if put on the spot.  But, then we must ask our selves the questions, what happens when the thrill, the emotion, that deep passion is gone? Because if this is the definition of love, why do so many marriages end in divorce? Because passions change.  So love cannot only be passion.

And final definition:  love is unfiltered emotion, love is pure.  It’s something that happens to you. Your role is passive. You fall in love.  But, what happens when something else just happens to you?  What happens when emotionally things are going so well?  What happens when someone else is a whole lot nicer?  When love is something that just happens to us we do not attempt to explain away our behavior.  It just happens.

So, these are the definitions that the world has given us.  Thankfully, these are not the definitions that we have to live by.  God has given us a better definition.  God has given us a better demonstration even of what love is.

In our language and culture we have one ‘catch all’ word and we use ‘love’ for everything.  The Hebrew language has different words to describe different aspects and even types of love. 


RAYAH – FRIENDSHIP:  Friendship between husband and wife.  Friendship between family members.  Friendship between friends.  Friendship with God.  In friendship you have an affection for one another. There is caring for another one another.  

Example:  Song of Songs 4:7

Hebrew:  kulakh yafa rayati umum ein bakh.

Transation: You’re beautiful from head to toe, my dear love, beautiful beyond compare, absolutely flawless. (MSG)

The love that is being shared between this couple is a friendship love. Don’t miss it.  The words he is saying is not a come on.  It’s not a one liner. Because of their friendship he freedom to express his heart.

But friendship alone is not enough to keep a relationship going forward; especially in marriage. There are times of tension.  There are times when arguments arise.  There are times of difficulty.  And when you don’t feel like being friends.  We can find that if that was all the relationship was built on was friendship, trouble is ahead. As we have said,  what happens when someone else is friendly?

DOD  Just from the sound of it, you already know. It’s passion.  Deep longing.  Song of Songs/Song of Solomon!  It’s sensual.  It’s sexual. It’s desire.

Example Song of Songs 1:2

Hebrew:  yishakeni minshikot pihu kitovim dodeikha myiyayin

Translation:  May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine.

We are for this! And, the greatest thing is, God is for this!

But this can’t be all there is.  Because physically we change.  Because temperaments change.  Hormones change.  And if the thrill, the want, the desire, isn’t there anymore, and if all that the relationship was built only on was desire, the relationship can fail.   

Friendship and Passion are a part of love.  Both must be present. And then there is one more. 

AHAVA- which literally means, I GIVE.  It is a love of commitment.   It is a love of will.  It is the through the richer or poorer, sickness and in health. It is a word for love which means that nothing will stop this. If the friendship is rocky, love is still there.  If the passion isn’t what it used to be, love is still there. 

Song of Songs 8:7

Hebrew:  mayim rabim lo yukhlu lekhabot ethaahava uneharot lo yishtefuha imyiten ish etkol hon beito baahava boz yavuzu lo

Translation: “Many waters cannot quench love, Nor will rivers overflow it;  

Listen to how committed this love is.  AHAVA is a love that is never satisfied. Many waters cannot quench. Nor will it overflow.  It is a love that is saying: I will give you everything I have.  I hold nothing back.   

And here is greatest part, this definition is so much greater, deeper, powerful.  Just listen to the second part of the verse…

If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, It would be utterly despised.”

If any tries to ruin this. If a man were to give greater riches.  If someone offers you a bigger and better house, or more money, or more cars, or more passion, or in this moment when we are all stressed and they just seem like a better friend,  It would be utterly despised. I am fighting for you!

Today, what I want us to know, is that this is the kind of love that God has defined for us and demonstrated for us.  He is committed to us.  He gives to us.  He is fighting for us.  He is will give us something better than any one else can offer.

When he describes that kind of love to us, He says that he is an all consuming fire.

Deuteronomy 4:24

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Think about this image for a moment:  a consuming fire.  Most times when we think of fire in this sense, we think of its destructive force.  We think of the wild fires that happen every year in California.  We think of the devastating events that are taking place in Australia.

These are true and my intentions are not to change that or to make light of those.  But there is another way that we can see a fire like this.  Seriously, just think of the power of a force like this.  It’s beautiful in its own respects.  Nothing seems to stop it.  Millions of gallons of water have been dumped in an attempt to slow down the fires progression and it doesn’t stop.

Just listen to how God describes the power of this consuming power!

Deuteronomy 9:3

Know therefore today that it is the Lord your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as the Lord has spoken to you.

Nothing will stand in the way of his love:  His giving, His will, His commitment toward us.  Any enemy will be defeated.  Any obstacle will be consumed.  He is jealous for us.  Any one that offers something different, he will utterly despise it.  He will shut it down. He will show us, demonstrate to us, prove to us, His love, His giving, His will, His commitment to us.

When God says that he is a consuming fire, that is the image that we should have in mind.  A power that cannot be stopped.  For me, I’m just combining these two images from Song of Songs and from Dueteronomy.

You have God saying that He is this consuming fire and then you have this love that no matter how much water is thrown on it in an attempt to slow it down, to satisfy it, to drowned it out.  This love, this fire, will not be put out. The water will not satisfy it and the waters will not over flow. Instead of the water having an effect on the water; the  power of this fire consumes it all.  

Paul writes it like this: 

Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,

nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And AHAVA was displayed on the cross.

Romans 5:8

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus went to the cross after his closes disciples: betrayed him, denied him, fled from Him.

Jesus went to the cross with the people he healed and blessed screaming crucify Him.

Jesus went to the cross after suffering 39 lashes across his back. 

Jesus held on to the cross when the people mocked him.  

Jesus held on to the cross when they pierced him in his side, played games for his robe.

Jesus held on to the cross for one reason only: He loves us!  He AHAVE us!






And here is the thing about love, the thing makes AHAVA, this giving and committed love so difficult.  When you committing to something or someone, it is a risk. You are first stepping out with on faith.  AHAVA is a risk.  AHAVA love isn’t always returned.

1 John 4:9

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son, into the world so that we might live through Him.

That we might live.  Catch that.  Love (AHAVA) was a risk that Jesus took for us, that we might live.  Jesus went through the cross and all that came with it without the promise of one disciple ever coming back, without the promise of any followers coming back, and without the promise of you and I loving Him!

But He loved us.  He was committed to us.  He let nothing stop Him.

Today, I follow Him because he was committed to me.  He loved me and didn’t let anything stop His love for me.   Not my sin.  Not my doublemindness.  Nothing!

This is love:

1 John 4:10

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

I want to return that love!

1 John 4:19

We love, because He first loved us.

Let’s return that love to him.  Let’s commitment ourselves to Him. 


Hebrews 12:28-29

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service (worship) with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.

Let nothing stop you.  Let nothing get in the way.  No pride.  No humiliation.  No pain.  No past hurts.  No condemnation.  Nothing.  Let nothing stop you from giving and demonstrating your love to God!

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