I heard someone say once that love is the unifying language. I have had friends through the years with whom it was often difficult to communicate for one reason or another, yet a loving act done by one of us for the other never went misunderstood. Where words failed, love spoke.
Love manifests itself in a lot of ways. For example, my husband shows his love for me by keeping a clean house which he knows helps my anxiety. I try my best to show love in return by cooking tasty, healthy meals for him (and sometimes I even succeed at both! Wonder of wonders!). Love can look like compassion or correction. Like giving or lending a helping hand. Each one rings like a different syllable, like a another dulcet pronunciation.
Jesus told us that love would prove to people who we are—his disciples. For love, God sent His Son to that terrible end, and for love, Jesus went. You do not need to speak the same tongue to speak the language of love to someone.
During a car ride one day, my brother and I got deep into discussing how to reach people with the message of Christ. Where we landed after nearly an hour of back-and-forth on such controversial topics as sexuality, addiction, and other sins was this: If you don’t lead with unbiased, sincere, from-the-heart love, you’re leading with the wrong foot.
Life is a dance. Love is the music that guides us in perfect rhythm to the steps of God.
After all, if we don’t have love…what are we doing but making noise?
What is Love?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines love as “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person.”
In the Greek language from which the New Testament and Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) are translated, there are several different words for love, and four widely-known: agapē (related to obedience and commitment, not necessarily feeling and emotion), eros (romantic or sexual affection, appears only in Septuagint), phileō (implies a strong emotional connection, and thus is used of the deep love between friends), and storgē (naturally occurs between parents and children, can exist between siblings, and exists between husbands and wives in a good marriage).
Each kind of love has a different application in Scripture, and it’s important that we know which love we are called to show and toward whom, so that we can be confident we are walking in the love to which we are called toward all men.
What Does the Bible Say About Love?
John 3:16: For God so loved (agapē) the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have life in the age to come.
John 21:15: Jesus: Simon…do you love (agapē) me more than these [fish?]. Peter: Yes, Lord; you know that I love (phileō) you.
Romans 12:10: As to brotherly affection—have family affection (storgē) toward one another.
Proverbs 7:18: Come, let us drink our fill of lovemaking until the morning; let us delight ourselves with much love (eros).
How Can I Become More Loving?
Because the nature of God is love, the more we behave like Him and follow His instructions for right and righteous living, the more loving we will be. This process is often referred to as “putting off the old man nature” and “putting on the new man”—that is, the nature of God. Ephesians 4 gives us a list of just a few things in this “put off, put on” process that we can do to be more like God, which by default will make us more loving in our interactions with everyone:
- Put away falsehood and speak the truth to each other.
- Even when you’re angry, don’t sin and don’t give opportunity to the Devil.
- Don’t steal.
- Let no corrupting talk proceed out of your mouth, but only what is good for edifying according to the need, so that it gives grace to those who hear.
- Do not grieve the holy spirit of God with which you were sealed until the day of redemption.
- Get rid of all bitterness and rage and anger and angry shouting and defaming speech, along with all malice.
- Be kind to one another, tenderhearted.
- Forgive each other, just as God also has forgiven you in Christ.
There are many other things we can do to become more loving people overall, including: being more focused on others than ourselves, training our hearts to be thankful at all times, listening empathically, giving when able, and more.
Ultimately, loving behavior comes both from feeling (eros, phileō, storgē) and action (agapē), and we must dedicate our hearts to learning, understanding, and walking out each kind of love that God calls us into.
What is one thing from the list in Ephesians 4 that you can focus on this week that will help you to be more loving in your life?