Love Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Love

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Love is the core characteristic of those who worship God. God is said to be love personified: God is love. From the overflow of divine love among the three Persons of the Trinity, creation sprang as God decided to share God's own zestful and effervescent love with an entire cosmos of creatures. Those created in the image of God — and now those recreated in that image through Christ — display love as a divine gift, as that which makes human beings most reminiscent of God.

In Scripture

Shema "Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might" (Deut. 6:4-5).

"Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds" (Ps. 36:5).

"As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him. . . . But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him" (Ps. 103:13, 17).

Enemies "`You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven'" (Matt. 5:43-45).

"`Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?' He said to him, `You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets'" (Matt. 22:36-40).

"As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. `This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends'" (John 15:9-13).

"Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant" (1 Cor. 13:4).

"As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Col. 3:12-14).

"Whoever says, `I am in the light,' while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light" (1 John 2:9, 10a).

Points to Ponder

As a Fruit of the Spirit Love is the first fruit listed in Paul's classic passage in Galatians 5, even as love is highlighted elsewhere in the New Testament as the core virtue or fruit that entails (and binds together in unity) all other spiritual fruit. If love is present, things like joy and patience and kindness naturally follow. Without true love, these other fruit/virtues cannot get beyond surface behaviors that lack depth and genuineness.

Kinds of Love Traditionally Christians have often spoken of the varieties of love by way of three common Greek words: agape, philos, and eros. Agape is often said to be the truest kind of God-like love, and it is the quality of love we owe to God but that we are also instructed to extend to all people. Agapic love is self-giving, self-sacrificing, self-forgetting love that leads us to be the servants of others, even as Christ came to serve and not be served. Philos is said to be the love between friends. Although friend-love includes agapic love, it has its own peculiar qualities that bind people in friendships based on mutual respect, shared interests, and so on. Eros is erotic or romantic love, the love that flourishes between spouses and that typically includes the sexual component of "making love" within the context of a marriage relationship. This love also includes agapic love but has the distinctive romantic qualities associated with courtship, marriage, and family. But agapic love is that to which all people are called. This is the love that seeks to give life to the beloved, to enrich another with no regard as to whether the lover will reap benefit. In Scripture's most famous passage on love, the apostle Paul goes so far as to claim that without love among God's people, their gifts and ministry are hollow at their core. "Love never ends. . . ." "The greatest of these is love. . . ." This love, then, defines Christian identity as rooted in Christ.

Loving and Liking Christians are called to love all people with the quality of God's own love as we see God's image in every person we meet. Within even the community of the church, however, this kind of love need not entail being best friends with everyone. We can love people even if they would not be our first choice for dinner companions; we can love people whose views, tastes, or lifestyle mean they are people we don't particularly like. This can be a fine line, of course, as sometimes our dislike of someone can quickly morph into behaviors that end up being unloving, or we can use our dislike as an excuse not to love some people in Christ. But it is possible to extend God's love to people we do not know well and to those with whom we have little in common.

From Frederick Buechner "The power of agape — otherwise quite powerless — is perhaps nowhere better seen than in the tale of "Beauty and the Beast," where Beauty does not love the Beast because he is beautiful but makes him beautiful because she loves him. Ultimately, in other words, agape is God's love for humankind, and only as God's gift are humans enabled at rare moments to love that way themselves — transformingly, unconditionally, no matter what. Thus when Paul says `love never ends,' he is not being sentimental or merely rhetorical. There is no doubt that eros ends. Agape, on the other hand, is without end as God is without end because it is of the essence of God."

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.