How would you answer this question?

Dictionary definition – Oxford Dictionary – difficult to define – ‘A strong feeling of affection’

Ancient Greek origins – five forms or concepts of love

  1. Eros – passionate erotic love – ‘love of the body’
  2. Agape – pure or ideal or selfless or unconditional love – ‘love of the soul or the spirit’
  3. Philia – loyalty to family, friends, community ‘brotherly love’ – ‘love of the mind’
  4. Storge – natural affection – like parents feel for their children
  5. Xenia – hospitality – friendship between a host and a guest – mutual obligations

Contemporary understandings

Love usually refers to the experience one person feels for another – much stronger than ‘liking’ another person

The idea of romantic love developed in Europe from the Middle Ages

Biological approach – lust (few weeks or months!), attraction, attachment

Psychological approach – triangular theory – intimacy, commitment/caring, and passion – ‘consummate’ love includes all three

More recent ideas – love is an activity not simply a feeling – love is a commitment to another person based on a conscious choice


The Old Testament refers to love in many ways – ‘Adam made love to Eve’, ‘take your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and sacrifice him’, ‘Isaac loved Rebekah’, ‘the compassionate and gracious God, abounding in love and faithfulness’

In the New Testament the Greek word Agape is used to describe God’s love for us

God’s agape love for us is His commitment to our spiritual growth, to our wellbeing, and to our salvation from separation from Him through the sacrifice of Jesus – God’s love is a gift, it is unconditional – by accepting and receiving God’s love we can then truly love others

God’s love is all action – John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

How does the Apostle Paul describe love? 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.”

And finally, what does Jesus say about love?

Mark 12:28-31 “One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

So, when we are next asked, “What is love”, how will we reply?

And more importantly, in what way will we show love in our lives?