Summary: What is love? How will I know love when I see it? Is it just something I feel inside? Is it just a word we say? What the World says about love and what the Word says about love are two very different ideas.



One of my main languages is music, so I’m going to be quoting some popular songs of my era that talk about love this morning since it is, after-all, Valentine’s Day. I hope you don’t mind. In the popular 80s song by the group Foreigner, the lead singer passionately sings – “I wanna to know what love is. I want you to show me. I wanna feel what love is. I know you can show me.” Some have even tried to claim that this is a Christian song talking about Christian love. It really isn’t. Instead, I believe it is cry for what the world wants to know. They see so many examples of what love isn’t. They see things done “In the name of love”, that do not seem like love at all. That’s another good 80s song btw.

Another song by the group Van Halen says – “How do I know when it’s love? I can’t tell you but it lasts forever. How does it feel when it’s love? It’s just something you feel together.” So ambiguous. So uncertain. So vague. There’s a lot of confusion about love. Either love is just a feeling that you fall in and out of, or love is just physical desire, physical attraction, and physical intimacy - According to the world.

We all need love. We all crave love. Feeling unloved and unwanted is a terrible way to live. Love is an essential part of life. And yet so many have been hurt or scarred by what the world calls “love.” Many have been used and abused by something called “love,” enough for those to say “Love stinks, Love hurts, Love bites, Love stings, and I hate myself for loving you.” And yet in our search for love, we endure hurt after hurt, and many broken hearts until we find the “right one” for us. That is the common experience of a greater portion in this world of sin.

In Matthew 24:12-13 (NIV) Jesus said about the last days…

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…

There’s a song that says – “You’re as cold as ice; you’re willing to sacrifice our love.”

Another group sings – “Is this love that I’m feeling? Is this the love that I’ve bee searching for?” Could we say that it’s true that the people of this world are crying out for love, desperate to find true love, unconditional love, love that lasts forever?

Where are they going to find it? The secular Movies or music present a very distorted and unrealistic view of love. Their friends or family show a love full of breakups and divorces, love that is more about fulfilling my needs than thinking of others. Well, what about the Church? Unfortunately there are a lot of people who call themselves Christians that can be very hateful, judgmental, and unforgiving. So what can we look to for love – real love?

How about the one who IS LOVE? The one who defines love by who He is – God.

Before Webster ever created a dictionary to define the word, there was God’s Word who spoke of the one who demonstrated for us perfect love in His Son and defined love by His own nature. So we look to God’s Word for what love is all about.

The word “love” occurs 567 times in the NIV. This is compared to faith being mentioned 259 times in the Bible and truth being mentioned only 135 times. This beats salvation which mentioned only 115 times. The only words that are mentioned more than love in the Bible are God (3995 times) and Lord (7479 times).

The two greatest commandments of God, according to Jesus, involved love – love for God and love for people. Jesus said that the entire law and the prophets are based on these two commandments – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.” That love is the fulfillment of the law. Paul said in I Corinthians 13 (known as the love chapter) that love is the greatest of all the gifts of God, that nothing else matters if you do not love. [Think of that, an entire chapter dedicated to one word – Love.] And finally, Jesus says that the way people will know that we are His followers, His disciples, that we belong to Him, is by our love for one another.

How will the World know what love is? By how true Christians treat one another.

Let’s look now to God’s Word and what God says about what love really is.


Please Turn in your Bibles to... 1 Corinthians chapter 13

Now first of all, why did Paul write this? The Apostle Paul is the author. He wrote these words as a letter to the Church in Corinth. The Church in Corinth has come to be known as Paul’s most troublesome church. They were full of divisions within the church, quarreling, jealousy, and following people rather than God. Many in the church were boasting about their wisdom and possession of spiritual gifts, comparing themselves to one another. There was sexual immorality and idolatry among the members. Christians were taking each other to court and filing lawsuits against one another. The Lord’s Supper had become a free-for-all, first-come-first-serve kind of thing. People were cutting in line, taking more than their share, and leaving none for others. There was much disunity in the body. Christ’s followers in this church were not representing the love of God very well at all. In fact, if you were a non-believer and you saw what was happening in this church, you would think they’re no better than what I see the world do. Paul never wrote a letter as strong and scolding as the ones he wrote to the Church in Corinth.

So Paul wrote these words in chapter 13 to show them what they should be doing that they definitely were not doing.

? 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV) says this…

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Someone say – “Love is!” You notice it doesn’t say, “love does” or if you are loving, you will do this. No. It says, “Love is.” As in this is what love looks like.

The people in the Church in Corinth did not know what real love looked like.

Just as the people in the world today do not know what real love looks like.

Paul says, “Real love looks like this: It is patient.”

How many of you struggle with being patient? How many of you have times when your patience runs thin, you begin to be irritable, testy, and your first thought is probably not love for the one who is testing your patience? Some say patience is a virtue. You know what he puts along with patience? Kindness. Love is kind. Love is patient and kind to others.

That implies something. That implies that love thinks of others before it thinks of itself.

Willing to be patient. Willing to show kindness even when our patience is being tested.

This is what love looks like.

What else? Love does not envy or boast. It is not proud. Love isn’t about comparing one’s self to others. There isn’t this unhealthy competition of one-ups-manship.

You see love isn’t about coming in first, but realizes that we are all in this journey together.

It’s not everyone for themselves; it’s I’m for you and you’re for me and we’re for each other.

And leads us to the next “love is.” Or rather what love isn’t. Love does not dishonor others. Well that seems like it should be obvious, right? But put it with the others in this sentence.

Love is not self-seeking, or easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs.

The KJV says it like this – “Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.” The NASB says – “It does not act disgracefully, it does not seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered.”

Why does it seem so often it is us against them, me against you? Why are we so often ready to fight, and argue, and debate, and share our opinion or have an opinion of others? Why do we so often expect others to act right and do the right thing all the time, when we are so willing to make excuses for ourselves? Why are we so critical, so unforgiving, so demanding of our way? Who put us in charge? Who made us the enforcer or the judge?

Aren’t we all imperfect and in need of salvation, forgiveness, and wisdom from God?

This says what love isn’t. If I was to write the opposite to say what love is, I would say love honors others, seeks the good of others, is forgiving of others, and forgets how others wronged us… let’s it go. It is happy no matter what others do. Doesn’t hold grudges.

I love the way that the NLT translates the next verse. “[Love] does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.” What does love care about? What does love think is important or worth fighting for? What does love stand up for?

The truth. What is TRUE. You would think the opposite of delighting in what is evil or unrighteous would be delighting in what is good. Why does he say, “rejoices in the truth”?

When the whole world is glorifying evil, wickedness, unrighteousness, and injustice, love rejoices in the truth. What is truth? Isn’t that what Pilate asked Jesus?

The duty of a court of justice is to discover the truth. Witnesses are sworn to declare the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Why? Because it is only when the truth is discovered that justice can be delivered. But so often are we really concerned with what is true? Instead our greatest concern is for what we feel, what we want, what we desire.

Love cares about what is true, because what is true is what is good for all parties.

And finally, love always… What does love always do? That means if it doesn’t always do this, then it isn’t love. Love always protects. If you love, you stand up and protect those around you. You are a protector, a shield for others from harm. Love always trusts. Now wait a minute. I… I find it hard to always trust. There’s some things I can’t trust and feel I shouldn’t trust. I’d agree with that. Maybe another way to think about this is – love always gives others the benefit of the doubt. Don’t you want others to give you the benefit of the doubt? Love does that instead of jumping to conclusions or thinking the worst of others.

And love always hopes. If there is love, there is always hope. When you remove love, hope fades away, things fall apart, relationships are destroyed, society crumbles. But when there is love, there is still hope. And lastly, love always perseveres. Love never gives up.

Maybe that’s why there is hope when there is love.

But think about that for just for a moment. So often the relationships that people have are temporary from the beginning, not expected to last. They give up whenever there is hardship, whenever there is difficulty, whenever someone is not happy or someone feels their needs are not being met. That can’t be based upon love, if it gives up so easily.

Love never gives up; it always perseveres.

This is what love is! This is what love looks like! Do you want to know what love is?

Look no further than the one who defines love by who He is. The Bible says in 1 John chapter four that “God IS LOVE!” You could replace the word “love” is 1 Cor. 13 with “God” and God truly would be all of those things.

God is all of these things … and more.

The last scripture I want to share with you is this:

? 1 John 3:16-18New International Version (NIV) says…

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.


? Do you want to know what love is? Love is more than a word we say so often it loses its meaning. Love is more than a feeling that we fall in and out of. Love is more than what meets my needs or fulfills my desires. Love is a person who lives my heart changing me each day to do what He would do, say what He would say, and give what He would give.

? Love is Jesus.

Would you please stand?