Love is foundational to authentic Christian experience for two reasons. Firstly, God declares Himself to be, not just the God *of* Love, but the God who *is* Love.
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” – 1 John 4:7,8
Secondly, Jesus says:
“A new commandment I give unto you, love one another”
“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” 1 John 4:20
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” Matthew 5:44
Is such love humanly possible? Or does it need to come from God?
So God IS love, it is His defining characteristic.
Love as we usually understand it is affection. This kind of love, ‘ahavah’ in Hebrew, is only part of the story.
The Hebrew word that is usually translated in the Old Testament as ‘love’ or ‘lovingkindness, is Chesed, which carries the additional meanings of Grace and Mercy (Chen). It encompasses the ideas of kindness and charity (genuine charity is love; indeed in the King James Bible the word used for love is ‘charity’, from the Greek charis which is also related to Grace.)
In Greek there are three words, representing three different forms of love:
– Eros – sensual love
– Philios – brotherly love
– Agapé – self-sacrificial love
Christian love is a mixture of Philios and Agapé (and, within marriage, the addition of Eros).
Additionally, there is Charis, Grace which is undeserved love or favour.
Words are slippery fish to define, especially when translating between languages, and as you can see, there is a great deal of overlap and interconnectedness between the concepts of Love, Grace, Mercy, Compassion and Kindness.