February 1, 2016 @ 12:36 AM

It’s February and February is the month of love. We celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14th and give cards, flowers, candy, or gifts of some kind to our loved ones. We want them to know they are loved but what exactly is love? Is it a feeling? Is it a decision? Webster’s online dictionary defines it this way, (1) strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties (maternal love for a child) (2) attraction based on sexual desire :  affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3) affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests (love for his old schoolmates).” So the prevailing sentiment is that love is a feeling based on an attraction.

That certainly is one definition but the Bible gives us another definition. The word for love used most frequently in the Bible is AGAPE (pronounced ă-gŏp-ā). Agape is defined as intentional love NOT based on feelings but based instead on choice. Agape is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. Listen to how Jesus used it, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27), “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34), and “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Agape can be commanded. Agape is sacrificial. It is how God chooses to love us. He does not have to love us but He chooses to. Does that mean we should dismiss emotional, feeling-based love? No, but it does mean that we must love others with both our emotions and our will. For some we will simply have to love them with our will, choosing to do good to them, though we have no loving feelings toward them.

Okay, that’s my best shot at defining love. So what’s the difference between love and lust? If agape love is selfless, sacrificial and unconditional, lust is just the opposite. It is typically rendered by the Greek term EROS (pronounced air-os, English “erotic”). Eros is strong sexual attraction and is about gratifying needs.  Here’s a handy table illustrating the difference between the two:





You, other-centered    

Me, self-centered


Please you

Please me, gratify my desires/fantasies


Heart focused

Body focused, objectification


Doesn’t press rights

Presses rights





No guilt, no shame

Feels guilty, ashamed


Spouse feels clean, loved

Spouse feels dirty, used


Intimacy experienced

False intimacy perpetuated


God built us with the capacity to love others. Love is a reflection of who He is for “God is love.” Loving others confirms that we are made in His image. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!