Valentine’s Day is here! Maybe you’re looking forward to a romantic date night with the love of your life… or maybe you’re resigned to playing video games and curating your Pinterest boards by yourself while all your friends go out with their significant others. (Hey, we’ve all been there.)
Either way, Valentine’s Day is a good opportunity to learn what the Bible teaches us about love. Not the shallow “love” on display in advertisements and marketing copy, but real, genuine love—the self-sacrificing, grace-extending attitude that God wants to see embodied in all of our relationships, not just our romantic ones. Whatever your plans for Valentine’s Day, take a minute to reflect on these five powerful Bible verses that explain what true love looks like.
Perhaps the most famous Bible passage about love, this one is frequently and understandably recited at weddings. But as with many well-known Bible quotes about love, it’s not just romantic love that is being described:
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a ringing brass gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and I know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I parcel out all my possessions, and if I hand over my body in order that I will be burned, but do not have love, it benefits me nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous, it does not boast, it does not become conceited, it does not behave dishonorably, it is not selfish, it does not become angry, it does not keep a record of wrongs, it does not rejoice at unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. But if there are prophecies, they will pass away. If there are tongues, they will cease. If there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but whenever the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I set aside the things of a child. For now we see through a mirror indirectly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know completely, just as I have also been completely known. And now these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. (LEB)
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (NIV)
Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. (HCSB)
This is how God’s children and the devil’s children are apparent: everyone who doesn’t practice righteousness is not from God, including the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister. This is the message that you heard from the beginning: love each other. Don’t behave like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he kill him? He killed him because his own works were evil, but the works of his brother were righteous. Don’t be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have transferred from death to life, because we love the brothers and sisters. The person who does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. But if a person has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need and that person doesn’t care—how can the love of God remain in him? (CEB)
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
And 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 great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (ESV)
How does the picture of love in these verses compare to the type of love that marketing campaigns and relationship manuals exhort us to practice? Do you exhibit this type of love toward your spouse or significant other? Do you exhibit this type of love toward everyone in your life?
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