In case you haven’t noticed, we live in a world where Christianity is being criticized more and more as secularism increases all around us. This in and of itself doesn’t surprise me, because Jesus Himself warned that this would happen:
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.John 15:18-19 NIV
Ironically, in a world that clearly hates us (whether they say so or not), we as Christians, and Christianity in general are equated to being the hateful ones. Hateful in our supposedly “outdated” beliefs, values, speech, and actions.
The more I observe what is going on in the world, the more it upsets me about how non-Christians are both right and wrong in this regard. Right, in the sense that we as Christians (if we’re being honest) could all stand to be a bit more loving. Wrong, in that what they think is love, is not really love from a biblical standpoint.
In this post, we’ll take a look at several bible verses about loving others. My prayer is that you will walk away with a better understanding of what love really is, what the bible actually says about loving others, how to show love as a Christian, and what showing love looks like in action in the secular world we live in today.
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- What is Love According to Scripture?
- What Does the Bible Say About Loving Others?
- How Does God Want Us to Love Others?
- More Bible Verses About Loving Others
- Pray to Love Others More
What is Love According to Scripture?
I’m sure we would all agree that there are different types of love. There is the love you might have for a relative, a friend, a lover, a famous person you admire, a mentor, a hobby, a sport, a food, a place, etc. Love in a sense can be relative.
However, when talking specifically about love for people in general, depending on who you ask to define the word love, you will typically get a variety of answers that are similar to how the Webster’s dictionary defines it:
- a strong or deep affection for
- to like or enjoy very much
- to hold dear or cherish
- concern for the good of another
But what is the biblical definition of love?
Defining love is the foundation of learning how to love others. As Christians, if we don’t first understand what love is, how in the world could we even begin to love anyone else, or ourselves for that matter.
I will give you the most concise definition that the bible gives: God is love.
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. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.1 John 4:7-10 NIV
This short passage tells us a lot. Here are 4 key points (I will make a 5th one in the next section):
- God is love
- Love comes from God
- He demonstrated His love by sending His Son to die as an atonement for our sins
- Love is NOT that we loved Him, but that God loved us
God Himself is love. He is the definition and epitome of love, the creator and source of it, and the ultimate demonstrator of love!
- Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13 NIV
- But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NIV
- But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV
- I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NIV
- See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1 NIV
Now, let’s take the fact that God is love, and see how that dictates how we are to love others.
What Does the Bible Say About Loving Others?
We’ve established that God is love, and love comes from God. The fifth point I want to make from the passage from 1 John above is that ONLY those who have been born of God and know Him (Christians) can love others the way God commands us to in His Word.
Whaaaat?!?! Yes, read that again to make sure you read it correctly. Let me quote the first part of that passage again here for emphasis:
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.1 John 4:7-8 NIV
And, I’ll list these verses from the same chapter:
If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.1 John 4:15-16 NIV
You see, if God is love, and the Creator and source of love, then He is the only one with the authority to define how to demonstrate that love, and empower others to love accordingly. Let’s dive deeper into Scripture regarding this.
1. The Holy Spirit Empowers Christians to Love Others
When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, His Holy Spirit comes to live in us. It is then, and ONLY then, that we are empowered to even begin to love the way the bible tells us to:
- We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 NIV
- But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
- For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
So, what about non-Christians who do “good” and “loving things”? Is that not love?
In short, the bible teaches that everyone has a God-given moral compass. People will often choose to do what’s right based on that compass, regardless of whether they acknowledge its source or not. This includes “good deeds” and “acts of love”.
Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.Romans 2:14-15 NLT
So yes, non-Christians can exhibit or manifest love, or acts of love, but not fully in the biblical sense of the term – as that requires the power of the Holy Spirit.
NOTE: As we get further into how the bible tells us to love, I promise you, this will make even more sense.
2. We Are to Love Others As God Loved Us
If we had to summarize our duty as Christians on earth, it would be to love God and to love others.
“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.”Matthew 22:36-40 NIV
Note that the greatest commandment is to love God, implying that the any other commandments should be obeyed within that context. What it means to love others, therefore, depends on what it means to first love God.
Through the Bible, we know what it means to love God because He has revealed who He is, what He has done, and how we are to respond in relationship and obedience to Him accordingly:
- If you love me, keep my commands. John 14:15 NIV
- In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 1 John 5:3-4 NIV
In light of that, God explicitly commands us to love others, as He loved us:
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.John 15:12 NIV
Jesus was not saying that we should die on the cross for others’ sins. Only He could do that. He was telling His disciples to exhibit the same love he had demonstrated while on earth: to care for the souls of others, as well as, their earthly needs by doing good to and for them.
We often forget that we are the recipients of a love from God, that we don’t deserve. If we hold to that mindset when it comes to loving others, that should compel us to do so all the more.
3. We Are to Love Others As Ourselves
As stated by Jesus in Matthew when we looked at the two greatest commandments (and reiterated by James, and Paul in his letter to the Galatians), we are to love others as ourselves.
- If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. James 2:8 NIV
- For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Galatians 5:14 NIV
In others words, we should love others in the same way we want to be loved and cared for.
After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church.Ephesians 5:29 NIV
4. Loving Others is a Testament of Our Christianity
We’ve seen that the Bible teaches we should love others because it is a command from God to love as He loved us, and as we love ourselves. But, what is the reason behind the command? What is the importance of showing love to others?
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.John 13:34-35 NIV
God wants us to love others because in doing so, that is how people will know that we are followers of Christ! Loving others is a testament of our Christianity.
Because we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are capable of loving others in a completely different way than our non-Christian counterparts. A way that is so different that our Christian love should identify who we are and what we stand for. In essence we should be known by our love.
So let’s see exactly what this Christian love looks like in reality . . .
How Does God Want Us to Love Others?
If you have an analytical mind like me, you may still be struggling with the fact that only Christians are capable of loving others in a biblical sense. Don’t worry, because we will tackle that even further in this section.
Let’s start with understanding who the bible says we should love.
1. Love Everyone
I think most Christians and non-Christians would agree, that in practice, to love is to do good to and for others.
However, one of the biggest ways in how we as Christians are called to love differs from how secular culture loves, is that we are called to love everyone.
Take a look at these bible verses about loving others:
- Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25 NIV
- A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17 NIV
- Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Hebrews 13:1 NIV
We are to love our spouses, our friends, and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Easy enough right? But, what about this passage:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?Matthew 5:43-47 NIV
In what secular arena do you see a message like that? In fact, I have personally sat in on conversations where such talk, and ways of thinking was mocked and ridiculed.
That’s because the extent of the love that God calls us to have, is not something we can exhibit on our own. It requires help from the Holy Spirit within us.
In the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus made it clear that loving your neighbor means more than loving those you know and like. It’s not about just loving people that are most like you.
Loving your neighbor extends to those who are most different than us. Those outside our race, social circles, neighborhoods, and political camps. Those who don’t share our background, level of education, or even our religious beliefs. Those who get on our nerves, annoy us, frustrate us, mock us, accuse, and persecute us. And yes, even our worst enemies.
We are to show love by doing good to and for ALL people– despite their sins, flaws, mistakes, the way they look, their background, their social status, their sexuality, their financial standing, their educational background, etc.
If you have ever read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) then you know that Jesus actually had a habit of showing love to the most “unlovable” people (at least by secular standards). He loved the poor, the widowed, the blind, the lame, the outcasts, the handicapped, the leprous, the weak, the unskilled, and the uneducated.
And, as Christians we are called to do the same.
2. Exhibit the Biblical Characteristics of Love
Now, let’s take a look at the characteristics of love that we are to show to people – and trust me, we’ll need the Holy Spirit for this too!
Paul describes love best in this well-known love passage from his letter to the Corinthians:
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 13:4-8 NIV
Are you starting to see that loving others isn’t as easy as it sounds. Secular culture says that loving others is wanting for others what they want for themselves; affirming whatever journey a person wants to be on, such that they don’t feel judged.
But, our bible not only tells a different story, it’s on a completely different level – a spiritual one! Do you have this kind of love perfected in your life?
Love that is patient with people? Not envious or boastful. Not proud or self-seeking. How about your temper – do you snap easily and frequently? Do you bring up the past sins or mistakes of others, and constantly hold it against them?
In a world that tells us that we should be willing to accept any and everything that is against the Word of God, do you find yourself delighting in evil? Or, do you rejoice in the truth of what the Bible teaches and speak that truth in the face of adversity?
Remember, love in a biblical sense is caring about BOTH a person’s soul (their spiritual needs), and their earthly needs. As Christians we are to show love by exhibiting these characteristics, AND by sharing the truth of the gospel message in love.
How often are we passionate about speaking the truths of God’s Word, but guilty of delivering those truths in unloving ways?
One of the most important things to remember when it comes to loving others is that it MUST be done with the proper motives.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.Romans 12:9 NIV
And remember, even if we fool others, God knows our hearts. He knows if we’re simply showing acts of kindness to look good, be recognized, or to get something in return.
Christian love on the other hand is to love others sincerely, out of love for God and obedience to His command to love others. This is the type of love that always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres and never fails.
I believe we all have some work to do when it comes to loving others the way God calls for us to.
3. Love Others in Action and Truth
Loving others is not only about exhibiting the biblical characteristics mentioned above. God also calls for us to love with action.
As I stated earlier, we can’t literally die on the cross for the sins of others as Jesus did, but John tells us how we can essentially “lay down our lives” for others:
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.I John 3:16-18 NIV
Christian love is not expressed simply in words, but with actions that are in accordance with the truth of God’s Word. And the Bible, gives us a ton of guidance and instruction on how we are called to act in love.
Here are ten of my favorite bible verses about loving others:
- Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10 NIV
- Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 NIV
- Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Proverbs 3:27 NIV
- Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. I Thessalonians 5:11 NIV
- Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 NIV
- Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. Philippians 2:3 NIV
- John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” Luke 3:11 NLT
- Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:8-10 NIV
- What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? James 2:14-16 NLT
- Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Ephesians 4:2 NLT
When we stop focusing on trying to live up to how our secular culture wants us to love others, and instead spend more time learning the Word of God so we can love others the way God has us commanded to, we will truly begin to make a spiritual impact in the world in which we live.
Despite popular belief, as Christians, we can show love to people who do not share our views on justice, sexuality, politics, money, and any other topic you can name. And, we don’t have to agree with or compromise our stance on the Word of God to do so.
The balance comes when we learn to have the right attitude, and approach that aligns with God’s Word – all of which requires help from the Holy Spirit and much prayer.
More Bible Verses About Loving Others
What God has been personally teaching me lately in regards to loving others is that it is, and should be, a lifelong pursuit as a Christian.
Because we experience the love of God in our lives on a daily basis, so we too, should actively look for ways to love others. Every. Single. Day.
- And walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2 NIV
- 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. Proverbs 3:3-4 NIV
- Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8 NIV
- Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 NIV
- 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. Colossians 3:12-14 NIV
If we truly want to make an impact in a world so full of hatred, racism, violence, and injustice, it is so important that we seek to live and love as Jesus did.
The Apostle Paul encouraged his disciple Timothy with these words:
Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.1 Timothy 4:12 NLT
Being an example amongst other believers is one thing, but, if we want to reach our non-Christian counterparts with the gospel message, we are to do the same.
It’s so important that we learn how to talk to and approach them in love – whether in person or via social media. In one of my favorite books, Faithfully Different, the author Natasha Crain, points out four key questions that we can ask ourselves as we consider engaging with non-Christians, and “speaking our truth”:
- Is this something worth speaking up about?
- What is my motivation for saying something?
- Should I say something privately or publicly?
- What is the best way to say what I’m going to say?
The answers to these questions require spiritual discernment and prayer – two things we often neglect when it comes to speaking our truth. And I assure you, whenever we attempt to speak truth without the prompting and guidance of the Holy Spirit, more often than not, it will be said at the wrong time, via the wrong platform, with the wrong motives, and/or with the wrong words. And, that is NOT love according to Scripture.
Pray to Love Others More
As I stated before, loving others the way God has called us to love, is not an easy thing. However, it is something God has equipped and empowered us to do through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us.
And, just like with anything else that God commands us to do, that we struggle with, we can and should pray for God to help us to do better.
As we’ve seen from numerous bible verses about loving others, love is an integral part of our calling as Christians. Paul said it best, at the beginning. and the end of the famous love chapter:
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.1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV
We can literally do all the good deeds in the world, and express incredible faith, but if we don’t have love, its pointless. We gain nothing without love.
That’s how important love is! The bible says it is even greater than faith and hope! You see faith and hope have a fulfillment or end date. When we are living in eternity in the very presence of God of heaven, our faith and hope will be fulfilled because God is the object of our faith and hope. But, because God is love, and He is eternal, love will always remain.
The entire story of the Bible is literally all about God’s love for us through Jesus Christ. Love truly is the greatest thing.
As Paul prayed for the church in Thessalonica, so we should pray for ourselves:
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.1 Thessalonians 3:12 NIV
In fact, we should even go a step further as the writer of Hebrews said:
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.Hebrews 10:24 NLT
How are you going to love others going forward?
Encourage someone else today by sharing: