Real Love: What is True Love?

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

1 John 4:7-12


What exactly is real love? Is real love a relationship between two people? Is real love Tom Holland and Zendaya? Is real love found in a movie? Is real love what you keep searching for? The next few weeks as we approach and pass Valentine’s Day, we are going to talk about love – and what God’s Word says about love. 

The easiest phrase to be used by students today is “I love you.” In the year 2022, that phrase is thrown and tossed around like an opened bag of candy. The hope of course is that if we are actively using that phrase, that we would actually mean what we say to the fullest. We conducted a very unofficial survey of our students regarding what they believe about love and relationships in connection with God’s Word. 

Out of those who responded, sixty-six (66) percent of them stated they believe true love can exist in a relationship whether the people in the relationship are Christians or not. Fifty (50) percent of the responses said that it is okay for them to be in a dating relationship with someone who is not a Christian as long as they are trying to witness to them. This is problematic when looking at Scripture and seeing what true love really is. When we look at 1 John 4, we learn more about what it means to have authentic love in our hearts.

God’s love should shape how we view love and relationships. 

The umbrella assumption of each of these statements is that real love is taking place. However, when it comes to being in a relationship, or thinking through this word “love,” it is incredible how we have made this word mean next-to-nothing as a society. 1 John 4 says pretty bluntly what love should be and where it comes from. Why? Because this “love” that we talk about can only come from God. 

Real love comes only from God (1 John 4:7)

1 John 4:7 says that we are called to love one another. Now, we are – we have established that. But that next phrase is what we are going to focus on: “for love is from God.” Everyone, not just your friend, not just your boyfriend or girlfriend, not just your husband or wife, but everyone who “loves” is born of God and knows God. Now, we know that not everyone on this planet who says “I love you” is born of God. But, one who is born of God and loves someone – has true love. So based on that, we can see that real, authentic love doesn’t come from the heart of a random person who is “loving” others – but it comes only from God. This means there are relationships that are supposedly based on “love” that aren’t really, because that love is not coming from God. 

Real love doesn’t exist without God (1 John 4:8)

Here’s the reality of what God’s Word tells us – no matter the relationships we are in, if we are not saved, we do not have the true love of God living inside of us. If we don’t have the true love of God living inside of us, then we are not physically capable of true love. 

This means that even in the best, most “healthy” boyfriend-girlfriend relationship – if you don’t have Christ, true love isn’t there. When true love isn’t there, it makes it fragile, and breakable. And even more than that, when we physically and spiritually aren’t capable of providing true love to the person we claim to “love,” sin can follow. This leads to broken relationships, destructive and harmful relationships. 

Real love was displayed by Christ (1 John 4:9-10)

The best example of true love displayed in Scripture was by Christ Himself, and John reminds us of that truth. God the Father gave His only Son, Jesus, as a living sacrifice, to be crucified on the cross, so that we may be forgiven of our mistakes and sins, and have everlasting, never-ending life with Him in a real place called Heaven. 

For myself, this has encouraged me to think twice before loosely saying I love something or loosely informing someone of my “love” for them. Real, true love is displayed by Christ on the cross, for He gave His life for us. It would be wrong for me to use the phrase “love” for something so loosely. May we be challenged to understand that true love has come, and is available for all of us. May we choose to accept it – and to live displaying it to others.

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