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).
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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.
Video: Loving others
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.
11. How God demonstrates His love (Romans 5:8)
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus tells us that love is laying down one’s life for your friends. But God took it a step further. He sent Christ to die for us even when we were lost in our own sin and opposed to Him. When Jesus tells us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), He isn’t asking us to do anything He wasn’t willing to do Himself.
God’s readiness to die for a world full of antagonists and adversaries illustrates His unwavering and captivating love.
12. Working the good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
One of the New Testament’s most inspiring promises is that God is right in the middle of the experiences of those who love Him. There isn’t anything you’re going through that’s beyond God’s influence or reach. And no matter how bad our experiences may be, God is at work to bring good out of them.
No matter what we’re going through, God is weaving it into His plan and using it to transform us. We may not see how it’s possible at the moment, which is why we need to take on faith that God is at work bringing good out of our darkest moments.
13. Love is non-negotiable (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
In one of the New Testament’s most poetic (but practical) passages, Paul communicates the importance of love. According to the apostle, it doesn’t matter if you can understand all the mysteries of faith and even speak heavenly languages or sacrifice everything for the poor. Those who belong to Jesus will be motivated by love.
As Paul explains, without love, we are nothing. And no matter how right or righteous we are, if it doesn’t spring from love, it’s nothing.
14. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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, always perseveres. Love never fails.
It’s interesting that this passage has become one of the primary go-to Scriptures for weddings. As applicable as it is for married couples, Paul was speaking to the entire church. These attributes are intended to function in the lives of every Jesus follower.
These aren’t merely sentimentalities or emotional states. They’re decisions we make about how we will live in the light of God’s love toward us and the presence of the Spirit within us. As we go, we will make the conscious decision to be patient and kind. We will choose not to be proud or dishonor others. We will live lives marked by trust, hope, perseverance, and steadfastness.
15. Rooted and established in love (Ephesians 3:16-19)
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
When it comes to the topic of love, this passage from Ephesians is so rich. Paul prays that the church would be strengthened by the Spirit, causing them to lay a foundation of love in their lives. And as that root is established, they would experience a continuing revelation of Christ’s love. Because in Paul’s economy, growing in our understanding of Christ’s love is integral to being filled with God’s fullness.
If we pay attention, the New Testament has a vital lesson to teach us about the proper motivations for holy living. Fear, shame, intimidation, and disapproval can only prompt people to go so far. And the good they do, they do to protect themselves. Love, on the other hand, inspires selfless courage and a willingness to sacrifice for others.
16. Put on love (Colossians 3:12-14)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Once again, Paul offers his readers a list of qualities that should define them. What’s interesting is that he tells us to clothe ourselves with them. We are to put on attitudes like compassion, kindness, and humility like we’re putting on a shirt. We’re not to wait and hope that we feel humble or gentle. We’re expected to adorn ourselves with these traits.
At the end of this passage, he mentions love again. And the word picture he uses is that love is the glue that holds all of the other virtues together. Love weaves these virtues together in a brilliant tapestry. Without love, we might be tempted to exalt in our kindness or take pride in our patience-but love is what keeps these virtues focused on the needs of others.
17. Power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
When Peter denied Jesus, it was the disciple’s darkest moment. All of his promises to stand beside the Lord no matter what came crashing down. And Peter vehemently denied ever knowing Jesus. But on the day of Pentecost when he was filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter was transformed. The same man who denied Christ to a servant girl (Matthew 26:71-72) was now standing before the vast crowds who had come to Jerusalem for this important Holy Day. And thanks to Peter’s Spirit-influenced courage, over 3,000 people were baptized that day.
The Spirit of God energizes and empowers us with influence and authority, genuine love for others, and self-discipline.
18. Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:7-8)
The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
If you knew the end was near, what would you prioritize? Above everything else, Peter wants his readers to love one another deeply. Why? Because love is the lubricant that makes community work.
The church’s job is to be ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). We accomplish the Great Commission by introducing people to the reconciliation available through the cross. As we work together to do this work, there are plenty of opportunities to get sidetracked by offenses and hurt feelings. These are things the enemy uses to thwart our efforts.
But when we love one another deeply, it covers those offenses and prevents the enemy from derailing our work.
19. Love comes from God (1 John 4:7-8)
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
The word “love” makes up 14 percent of this short, 35-word, passage. As far as John is concerned, love is the stamp of authenticity on those who follow Jesus since God is love and love comes from God. Those who have been reborn in God will be loving. Stands to reason, right?
And just to make sure we understand, John reiterates his point using an opposing example. If someone does not love, it’s because they don’t know God.
20. There is no fear in love (1 John 4:18)
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.
If you ask people what they consider the opposite of love, they’ll probably respond with “hate.” But a strong argument could be made that fear is a better answer. Love encourages you to think about the needs of others while fear puts your needs first. Fear often leads to hatred and can be found at the core of some of humanity’s most terrible behavior.
John says that as love is perfected in believers, it drives out fear. It makes us courageously focused on putting the needs of others above our own. And if we want to see perfect love at work, we only need to look at the redemptive work of the cross.
The greatest of these is love
At the end of 1 Corinthians 13, Paul makes this comment, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love” (v. 13). As we consider all of these verses, we need to remember that love isn’t just a landmark we pass on the way to greater things. It is the result of our faith being matured in us.
To learn more about loving others, check out this article about love.
All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.