One of the most famous verses in the New Testament is John 3:16, and it starts with the words “For God so loved....” The word for “loved” in the original language is the Greek word agape. It is a stronger word than the common English use of love.
We loosely say we love our dog, love chocolate, and love the beach, but agape is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect being. My feelings of love for my dog are conditional upon her not emitting atomic odors in my face, which she does quite often.
But God loves you and does not stop (even when you emit atomic odors). Agape is the strongest possible type of love. Even though we disappoint God and naturally sin against him, he still loves us. He is committed to us. He is on our side.
In this sense, love is more like a verb than a noun. Love is active and by its very nature will be demonstrated to the one loved. Real love is filled with goodness and kindness and commitment.
The extensive definition of love laid out in 1 Corinthians 13 is incredible: love is patient, kind, humble, joyful, truthful, enduring, persistent, faithful, hopeful, and full of belief, not to mention it doesn’t keep score. That is certainly a bigger kind of love than most of us are used to receiving, let alone giving. But that is how God loves us. And it is how God wants us to love others. “Dear friends,” John wrote, “since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other” (1 John 4:11).
Do you have a reputation for kindness? Are you known for your loyal love? How have you demonstrated your affection to your family lately? Maybe it’s time to take your kids on that long-promised fishing trip. Maybe you should set aside work to give some focused attention to your spouse, not because it’s your anniversary or Valentine’s Day, but just because you love him or her. In loving others in small and large ways, we imitate our God, who is love. (1 John 4:8, 16)