While many religions stress the topic of love, Christianity is unique in the way it describes God as a personification of this virtue. John tells us that "God is love" (1 John 4:8). And the entire biblical narrative is a story about how that love pursues humanity, culminating on the cross with the most beautiful and tragic picture of love the world has ever seen.
Let's look at 20 ways that love is discussed throughout Scripture.
1. Love God and keep His commandments (Deuteronomy 7:9)
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
God established the connection between loving and obeying Him early in Scripture. He wanted Israel to understand that they couldn't separate loving Him from obeying His commandments. The two were the same.
Jesus reiterated this idea in the Gospels when He asked, "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46).
2. A covenant of love (Joshua 23:9–11)
The Lord has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the Lord your God.
God built His covenant with Israel on mutual faithfulness. We often see God reminding His people that He has been faithful, and encouraging them to remain loyal to Him. Once again, in this passage from Joshua, we see God using faithfulness and love synonymously.
It's easy to think of love as a feeling, and think that as long as we maintain those feelings, we are loving God. But the Bible has always been clear that love is demonstrated through reliability and trustworthiness.
3. Goodness and love all my days (Psalm 23:6)
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23 is one of the most famous passages in Scripture—and with good reason. It's a beautiful meditation on God's faithfulness. After recounting the ways that God has cared for and guided him, David closes with the conviction that God's love and goodness will always be with him.
It's essential to note that David was not always known for his faithfulness to God. His story includes disappointing accounts of disobedience and rebellion. And even though he experienced the consequences for his sinful behavior, he was never abandoned by God's goodness and love.
In a nutshell, this is the entire Old Testament story. The infidelity of God's people contrasted with God’s faithfulness. And even though Israel brought a lot of suffering down upon herself for her disloyalty, God continued to pursue and woo her.
In his letter to Timothy, Paul communicates this truth concisely: "if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself" (2 Timothy 2:13). Thank God that His goodness and love are steadfast—even as ours wavers.
4. Bring me word of Your unfailing love (Psalm 143:8)
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.
In this psalm of lament, David communicates personal remorse for his shortcomings and the fear that as a consequence for disobedience, his enemies are going to overtake him. Over and over, David pleads with the Lord not to forsake him:
- In Your faithfulness answer your servant (v. 1)
- Enter not into judgment with your servant (v. 2)
- Answer me quickly, Lord (v. 7)
- Hide not your face from me (v. 7)
- Deliver me from my enemies (v. 9)
David's cry to "let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love" isn't a reflection on how a beautiful sunrise reminds him of God's love. It's a desperate and impatient request for God to intervene and provide quickly. It's David saying, "Please let me know that you love me by tomorrow, and you can do so by showing me what to do next."
This might seem like a pushy and insistent kind of prayer that many believers wouldn't be comfortable with, but David is called a man after his own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). And God typically responded to David's bold prayers.
5. Let love and faithfulness never leave you (Proverbs 3:3–4)
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.
Back in Exodus, when God was replacing the tablets of law that Moses broke, Scripture tells us that He passed in front of Moses and said:
The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation (Exodus 34:6–7, emphasis added).
The author of Proverbs hearkens back to this moment and reminds fellow Israelites to reflect consistently upon God's (and their own) love and faithfulness. To maintain the covenant and a healthy relationship with God, Israel would need to do more than receive God's love and faithfulness—they'd have to reciprocate it.
6. A friend loves at all times (Proverbs 17:17)
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
When we look to God as our model for love, we see that it isn't a feeling that comes and goes, or something we do out of convenience. It's a commitment that applies at all times in every circumstance.
The moment we begin to see love through this lens, we become the kinds of friends that people desperately wish they had. We become people who advocate for and celebrate others. And we become the people who others want in their corners as they go through difficult times. As the writer Proverbs might put it, we become the ones you want beside you during times of great adversity.
7. Love is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36–40)
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Jesus reduces the entire law to two commands: love God and love people. This fits perfectly with what we learn about God throughout the Old Testament. He makes a connection between our faithfulness and our love.
He then says that the second command is like the first. We are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. How is that command similar to the command to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? If we truly love God, we love what He loves. And that begins with loving the people He came to redeem.
And who is our neighbor? In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus shows us that everyone is potentially our neighbor—particularly when they're in need.
8. For God so loved the world (John 3:16)
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.
In one of the Bible's most well-known verses, Jesus lays out the gospel message clearly for a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Jesus's whole mission on earth served as a sign of God's incredible love for humanity.
But it's not God’s love that would have surprised Nicodemus. It's God’s love for the whole world that he would have struggled to wrap his mind around. God's love wasn't centered on Israel. And because of this amazing love, anyone—Jew, Greek, Roman, Samaritan—who believed in Christ would experience eternal life.
9. Love one another (John 13:34–35)
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Jesus gives the disciples a command to love one another and then sets an expectation for what that looks like. In the same way He has loved them, they are to love each other. That means that it isn't just a sentimental feeling, but a love that's willing to go to any lengths for each other. And it's this style of self-sacrificial love that will prove that they're Jesus's disciples.
This same love that Christ demonstrated for others is expected of us. People are hungry to belong and be loved. And when they see that love shared among believers, it makes them that much more willing to respond positively to the good news.
10. Greater love has no one than this (John 15:12–13)
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.
Again, Jesus tells the disciples to love one another as He has loved them. This time He tells them that the greatest sacrifices demonstrate the greatest love. And nearly every disciple will be given the opportunity to literally lay down his life to build up the church.
It's critical for us to understand that just because we may never be called to die for another doesn't mean that we don't have the opportunity to lay down our lives for one another. Even before Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice on Calvary, He demonstrated sacrificial love every day.
Every time He stopped what He was doing to cast out a demon or heal someone's affliction, He laid down His life. Every night that He stayed late in a town healing everyone who was brought to Him, He demonstrated this kind of sacrificial love.
If we're paying attention, we’ll discover that we have daily opportunities to lay down our lives for our friends.