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What it Means to Love

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Love. We use the word so casually – almost superficially – sometimes even flippantly.

“I just love this dress!”

“I love chocolate ice cream.”

“Don’t you just love those people?”

We use the word so glibly, and in the process, often reduce it to levels of lustful desire or small talk.

But what does it mean to love?

“I love my spouse. I love my kids. I love . . .”

How do we express that love that we profess? How does the other person know we really love them and aren’t just repeating words?

We say we love God, but often we simply exploit Him for our own purposes. We throw Him in the trash when we are no longer interested or group Him together with all the other superficial gods we create to make us feel good.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son to die for us.”

—John 3:16

In the Bible verse quoted above, love brings together God and our world. Yet people don’t want to be reminded of God. Or, they believe that if He existed, He certainly wasn’t a God of love but one of punishment and stern reckoning.

Yet scripture tells us He loves us so much He would die for us. People are being killed every day in the name of some god. But would a god of hate die for us? I don’t think so.

Scripture gives us a more detailed definition of love in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 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 . . .”

—I Corinthians 13:1, 4-8a, NIV

Love: We have diminished it – tarnished its value, while desperately clinging to the hope that we are wanted, needed, and loved.

We need to both receive and give love. We cannot live without it. Here are some meanings for love. Add to the list what love means to you.


  • Gives.
  • Reaches out.
  • Lifts up.
  • Cares.
  • Sacrifices.


  • Listens.
  • Is patient.
  • Forgives.
  • Offers grace, mercy, and understanding.


  • Needs others.
  • Sets boundaries.
  • Is never cheap.
  • Is given freely – cannot be earned.
  • Offers purpose and meaning.

Love is a gift. No payment required.

In fact, if we have to pay for it, it no longer is love. It has lost its value; it is diminished. The gift of love cannot be bought or bartered for or earned in any way. It is just that – a gift.

We can’t manufacture love or find it in our halls of justice or science labs. Love is a gift freely given.

We often associate the value of a gift with how much it costs. The higher the cost of sacrifice made by the giver, the more value it has to the receiver. When the son of God died for us on the cross, that was the greatest sacrifice of all.

We all want to be loved.

It is a need as necessary as the air we breathe and the water we drink. Who wouldn’t want love in their life?

I love people. I love the interaction, the give and take, the sharing of suggestions and ideas.

I love hearing their stories. I don’t always agree, and I don’t condone behaviors that are destructive or hurtful to others.

But if we begin with the premise that we are all imperfect, we can extend grace to get to know others better and seek to understand where they are coming from. In the process, we set appropriate boundaries and remain firm about them.

So often we think we can only care for someone when they love or care about us first. But if we want to find ways to share and receive love, we need to be willing to reach out, listen, be patient, and forgive when necessary.

Caring begins with little steps.

We do it without asking for anything in return. It is a belief – a principle we live by – to love rather than to hate.

Hate destroys.

Love opens the doors to understanding and reconciliation.

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