“Christians should be Loving to all
Jesus taught that the greatest commandments were to love God
and to love our neighbors.
He said that those two commandments summed up all the commandments that God
gave to Moses. In the same way, people like Paul and John wrote how love
should be a major part of every Christian’s life. Because it is such an
important idea to understand, it is helpful to see what the Bible tells us
IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
In the Old Testament, sexual love is talked about in the stories of Adam and
Eve, Jacob and Rachel, and in the Song of Songs.
A higher form of love, involving loyalty, steadfastness, and
kindness, is expressed by the Hebrew word hesed, which is
sometimes translated as “loyalty” (2 Samuel
More often, however, this Hebrew word is translated as “steadfast
love” or “loving-kindness.” The true meaning of this significant
word is clear in Hosea 2:19-20: “I will make you my
wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and
compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally
know me as Lord.”
The meaning is also clear in Job 6:14-15, where kindness is contrasted
with treachery and evil, and in 1 Samuel 20:8, which described a
loving-kindness based on a covenant. This unshakable, steadfast love of God
is contrasted with the unpredictable moods of the idols that some people
worshiped. The Hebrew word hesed is not an emotional response to
beauty, merit, or kindness.
Instead, it is a moral attitude dedicated to another person’s good, even if
that other person is not lovable, worthy, or responsive (Deuteronomy
This enduring loyalty, rooted in an unswerving purpose to do good things,
could be stern. In the Old Testament, many of the prophets warned the people
of Israel that God, in his love, was determined to discipline his people if
they disobeyed him.
But even with discipline, God’s love does not change. During the years when
the people of Israel were in exile, God’s love persisted with infinite
patience. God did not abandon the Israelites even when they were disobedient.
God’s love has within it kindness, tenderness, and compassion (Psalms
86:15;103:1-18; 136, and Hosea 11:1-4).
However, its chief characteristic is a moral obligation for another person’s
well being. Even though God’s love was unconditional, he did expect the
Israelites to respond to his loving acts. God’s law encouraged the Israelites
to be grateful for God’s redemption of the Israelites (Deuteronomy
God expected the people of Israel to show this by being kind to the poor, the
defenseless, the foreigners among them, slaves, widows, and all people who
were suffering from any type of cruelty. Hosea similarly expected steadfast
love among the people of Israel to result from the steadfast love God had
shown for the Israelites (Hosea 6:6, 7:1-7 and
Because of this, love for God and for “your neighbor as
yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) are linked in Israel’s law and
prophecy. While there are other types of love described in the Old Testament,
the most important type of love described in the Old Testament was based
around three main ideas: God’s love for the Israelites, the moral quality of
love, and the close relationship between love for God and loving one’s
IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Of all the Greek words used to describe love, eros, which means sexual
love, does not occur in the New Testament. The Greek word, Phileo,
which means natural affection, occurs about twenty-five times, and
Philadelphia, which is used to describe brotherly love, occurs about five
times. Storge, a Greek word used to describe natural affection between
relatives, also appears occasionally. By far the most frequent Greek word for
love used in the New Testament is agape.
Agape refers to moral goodwill that comes from respect, principle, or duty
rather than attraction. Agape is very similar in meaning to the Hebrew word
hesed because both of them involve a sense of dedication. Agape
specifically means to love the undeserving, despite disappointment and
rejection. Agape is especially appropriate for divine love.
IN THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS
In a sinful and suffering world, Jesus demonstrated his divine love through
his compassion and his acts of healing for people in distress. He also showed
great concern for people who were alienated and in despair. Because of this,
the kingdom Jesus spoke about offered good news to the poor, captives, blind,
and the oppressed (Matthew 11:2-5, Luke 4:18).
In addition, the attitude Jesus had toward people who were despised or
grieving assured them of forgiveness and a welcome return to God’s family
(Luke 15). Jesus’ forgiveness was free and he only required people to
accept it by being repentant and faithful. In addition, the love Jesus taught
carries its own obligations. People who want to practice Christian love may
love God and love others in the same way God does (Matthew
The first and greatest commandment in God’s law is “You
shall love the Lord your God. . . . And a second is like it; You shall love
your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and
the prophets” (Matthew 22:35-40, RSV; Leviticus 19:18
and Deuteronomy 6:5).
The first commandment is not identical with, lost in, or simply fulfilled by
the second commandment. These commands are separate laws. Jesus’ ideas about
loving God are clearly illustrated by his own habits of public worship,
private prayer, and absolute obedience to God’s will. Love for one’s neighbor
is not specifically defined anywhere, but there are numerous examples of what
In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus shows that a “neighbor” is
anyone near enough to help, and love involved whatever service that
neighbor’s situation demanded. The parable of the sheep and goats shows that
love includes feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and
people in prison.
And in Jesus’ life, we learn that love heals, teaches, defends people who are
despised, grants forgiveness, and comforts people in pain. We are to love
others as he has loved us. This type of love does good works without
expecting anything in return, never returns evil with evil, and practices
thoughtful understanding that tempers judgment. To Jesus, the worst type of
sin was the refusal to love. This included the refusal to do good, ignoring
destitute people at one’s own gate, and withholding forgiveness.
Lovelessness was made worse by self-righteousness and ignoring other
people’s distress in order to preserve a petty ritual or regulation. It also,
means not caring about how other's feel about things they are going through,
it is NOT just about themselves, it is NOT just about their needs and
wants..... LOVE is GREATER than oneself.
In the end, Jesus said that obedience to the law of love will
determine each person’s eternal destiny (Matthew 25:31-46).
IN THE WRITINGS OF PAUL
The apostles who helped start the first Christian church quickly understood
the revolutionary idea that love is enough. Paul’s declaration that love
fulfills the entire law is almost a straight quotation from Jesus.
His explaining of various commandments against adultery, killing, stealing,
and coveting is summarized in loving, because love can do no wrong to a
neighbor (Romans 13:8-10).
Ephesians 4:25-5:2 makes the same point in another way. In this
passage, all bitterness, anger, lying, stealing,
slander, and malice are to be replaced by tenderness, forgiveness, kindness and love.
For Paul, love is “the law of Christ,” and it is
supreme and sufficient (Galatians 5:14 and Galatians 6:2). Paul
also writes that the only thing that “avails” in Christianity is
“faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).
He insists that the supreme expression of the Holy Spirit’s work that all
Christians should desire is “the more excellent way”
of love (1 Corinthians 12:27-13:3, Romans 5:5 and Galatians
In the most famous passage about love in the Bible, Paul contrasts love with
five other expressions of religious belief that the people in Corinth greatly
wanted. Paul shows that each of these expressions is nothing without love
(1 Corinthians 13:1-3). He ends the chapter by comparing love with
faith and hope, the other enduring elements of Christianity, and he says love
is the greatest of all.
Paul’s description of love in action includes acts of mercy, hospitality, avoiding revenge, restoring and supporting
other people, kindness, forgiveness, encouragement, and
withholding criticism , giving of
yourself, giving of your blessings,
never get angry or show disrespect to other's,
be non- accusing. The list is almost
Briefly, love does no harm and never neglects doing good for others.
It is God’s law. According to Paul, God showed his love for us by sending
Jesus to die for our sins.
Because of his great love, he granted us eternal life
through Jesus Christ.
We live in that love, we conquer evil with that love, and nothing can
separate us from that love (Romans 5:8, 8:32-39, 2
Corinthians 13:14, Ephesians 2:4, 2 Thessalonians 2:16 and
Titus 3:4-5). Our love reflects the love first “poured into our hearts” (Romans 5:5), and it is directed
toward Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 7:1, 16:22 and Ephesians
6:24) and toward people whom we love for Jesus’ sake.
IN THE WRITINGS OF JOHN
What John thought about and wrote down forms a very crucial part of the
Bible’s teaching about love. For John, love was the foundation of everything
that had happened when he wrote, “God so loved the
world” (John 3:16, 16:27 and 17:23).
The only way we know about love at all is because Christ laid down his life
for us (1 John 3:16).
Love is the fundamental belief of all Christians because God himself is love
(John 4:8 and 16:1).
We know this by Jesus’ coming to earth and by his death on the cross (1
Because of these things, we know the love God has for us and believe that
love itself is divine.
It follows that “he who loves is born of God.”
“He who does not love does not know God.” Such a
person “is in the darkness,” “is not of God,” and “remains in
death.” No one has ever seen God, but “if we
love...God abides in us” and we are able to have a close
relationship with him. God’s love came before anything else. If we love at
all, it is “because he first loved us.”
Our love is directed first toward God, and John writes quite a bit about what
our love of God involves.
It demands that we “do not love the world,” that we
“keep his word [and] his commandments,” and that we
love our Christian brothers and sisters.
We received this commandment from Christ, “that he who
loves God should love his brother also,” for “if God
so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” In his writings in
the Bible, John stressed the importance of duty and love for others in our
love for God.
Indeed, if one closes his heart against his brother or sister,
“how does God’s love abide in him?”
Christians should be loving to all people (2 Peter 1:7).
John insists that God loved the whole world (John 3:16, 1 John
2:2 and 1 John 4:14).
In addition, if Christians cannot love each other, there is no way it will
flourish outside of the church (1 John 3:18). John believed that the
commandment to love God and people was the most important aspect of the true
Because of this, he does not go into detail about the many different
expressions of love. When John describes love in action, he recalls Jesus’
words about “keeping commandments” and “laying down life” in sacrifice (John 15:10, 13,
and 1 John 3:16).
He also mentions how love notices a brother’s need and shares what he has to
help anyone in need (3:17). As brief as these expressions are, they
embody the very heart of Christian love. John believed that love was a real
thing and it could not be something easy or sentimental.
The Christian idea of love can only be fulfilled within a group of Christians
who fellowship together.
In the Bible, love is not an abstract idea.
Love is rooted in God’s being, and it is expressed in
Jesus’ coming to earth and his death on the cross. All Christians
experience God’s love when they come to believe in Jesus, and they practice
this type of love among themselves.
Because God is love, it is central, essential, and
indispensable to Christianity.