A friend of mine saw this shirt and asked a great question – what exactly does that mean – love is a person? Even if you’re a born again believer, this is an excellent question to ponder! It sure got me thinking…
Love in the Bible
The bible (old and new testament) is full of talk about love. In the New International Version (NIV) of the bible, the word love appears 551 times. However, when we first start reading the bible it’s easy to forget that the bible was not originally written and transcribed in English. So, if you’re like me, I found it interesting to later learn that in the original hebrew and greek language that the bible was written in, there are different words used which we translate to the English word ‘love’ and they all have slightly different meanings. Here are some of those words and their basic meaning:
- Ahavah – love in feeling and action (noun and verb)
- Eros – romantic love
- Philia – brotherly love
- Agape – highest form of love – self-sacrificing and unconditional
(For a deeper study on the meaning of love in the bible, I highly recommend The Bible Project. Can’t say enough great things about their ability to bring greater depth of meaning to the bible and explain how it is one connected story that leads to Jesus. I’ve learned so much from their simple, modern videos and podcasts!)
God as Love
One of the main books in the bible where God is said to be synonymous with the word love is in 1 John.
“But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” – 1 John 4:8
“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love, live in God, and God lives in them.” – 1 John 4:16
The inference here is that God is not only loving as a characteristic, he IS love itself. And the greek word used in these passages is ‘agape’ which we just learned stands for the highest, purest form of love.
These verses are evidence that God can’t be anything but loving. Additionally, anything that is not associated with love – hateful speech, shame, sickness – is not from God.
Jesus as God
Now let’s consider Jesus. Jesus had a lot to say about love – how to love God and love people. For example, one of the most profound statements Jesus made is to love and pray for our enemies. He pointed out that if all we do is love those who treat us well, what is that really saying about us? The real deal is when we respond with love to those who don’t deserve it.
Historians would agree that Jesus was a person who walked the Earth. But Jesus also had some weighty statements about his divinity. There is A LOT of theology to unpack here, and I’m not a bible scholar by any means (again, I recommend The Bible Project, “Is Jesus God?” podcast Could be the best 56 minutes you spend this week. Just sayin’) Other bible authors also make statements that connect Jesus to being God. But in his own words, Jesus directly makes this claim in the gospel of John: “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (verse 7). Then one of his disciples is still a bit confused and says in verse 8, “…Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” So Jesus reiterates in verse 8 – 11, “…Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you for such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.”
Notice that last bit? Jesus says to believe on the evidence of the works themselves? I personally think this could be a way that Jesus is foreshadowing a great act of ‘agape’ love that he is going to demonstrate. And we’ve already established that God is love so….
Jesus Demonstrates Love
Actions speak louder than words. The culmination of Jesus’ life on earth, as a man, was one big act of ‘agape’ love. Death on the cross. Taking the punishment of sin for all mankind, once and for all. I’m continuing to ask God to help me understand the layers of meaning in all of this. But at a basic sense, Jesus came as a man and then demonstrated amazing grace and love when he allowed one of his best friends to sell him out to people who wanted to kill him, allowed himself to be nearly beaten to death (didn’t fight back) and then had his body nailed to a piece of wood where he was hung for all the world to taunt and make fun of him, felt the weight of all sin and separation from God, and then eventually died there. He went into all of that willingly, knowing one some level how brutal it would be and he still laid down his life.
Love is a Person
Whoa that was heavy. But it brings me to the last point here and I’m pulling out some learnings from my old critical thinking course in first year university. A good old “if then” statement:
IF God is LOVE and,
IF Jesus was a PERSON, and
IF Jesus was GOD,
THEN …Love is a Person
Did I lose you?!
The Bottom Line for “Love is a Person”
God is love and he’s not some high-off guy who sits in the clouds judging us and expecting some religious acts to keep him happy. He wants to be real with us and in a relationship. He wants to relate to us as a person – so much so that Jesus came down in the form of a person to exemplify that love, teach us about how to love and then show us the most incredible love. We are all searching in this life to love and be loved. And we can satisfy both of those desires in Jesus. He is a person. And He is Love.