by Linda Cox

Spring is in the air. And so is Valentine’s Day. A day to celebrate love.

But is the love we celebrate really true love?

A search for “love” in online dictionaries brought few surprises. “Strong affection with personal and emotional attachment” was by far the most common definition, followed by “attraction based on sexual desires.” Farther down the list, if mentioned at all, would be something like “fatherly concern of God for all mankind.”

The Greek language uses four different words for love.

Eros, which is romantic love or passion, is never used in the Bible.

Stergeo is natural affection and is only used twice in the Bible. It is such a common characteristic of all peoples that there’s really no occasion to refer to it except when it is not present.

Phileo, which is used in the Bible over thirty times, simply means “tender affection, brotherly love.”

♥ Lastly there’s Agape—the kind of love that can only be known from the action it prompts, an exercise of the will in deliberate choice. It is a love called out of one’s heart by the preciousness of the object at hand. It is the love that makes all of the other kinds of love “work.”

Agape love is used over 300 times in the Bible. Yet I wonder if our society fully comprehends what this kind of love really is.

Interestingly, the first time love is mentioned in the Old Testament is in Genesis 22:2 when God speaks to Abraham about sacrificing his “beloved son” Isaac. The New Testament synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, use love for the first time when Jesus is baptized and God the Father is calling out from heaven “this is my beloved Son.” In both instances, God is literally speaking about His love.

God’s love for His Son Jesus is the very definition of love. His love becomes the source of our love and reaches full expression when we love others. Because He lives in us, God—who is never seen—can be seen when we love others. When we love without expecting anything in return, when we choose to love someone no matter how unlovable they may be, we find that happiness is not in having and getting but only in giving.

As we approach Valentine’s Day (as well as Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent), why not spend some time with a concordance and look up all the verses in the Bible about love.

And by the way. Want to guess what the first verse in the Gospel of John is that uses the word love? Yes, that’s right.

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. John 3:16 NIV

Now that’s true love. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Linda Cox is a regular contributor to DivineDetour. She recently retired after twenty-five years as a district office secretary for the State of Illinois. Her first loves are studying the Bible and reading, but she occasionally tries her hand at writing. Her work is published in All My Bad Habits I Learned from Grandpa (Thomas Nelson),The One-Year Life Verse Devotional (Tyndale), Life Lessons from Grandparents (Write Integrity), Love Is a Verb (a devotional from Bethany House), and Chicken Soup for the Soul’s I Can’t Believe My Dog Did That. She lives on a farm with the “Bone Mafia,” her two indoor/outdoor farm mutts.