Christian theology of love

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Most Christians also believe that God is the source and essence of love, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." (1 John 4:8 NIV)

Most Christians believe that the greatest commandment is "thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment"; in addition to the second, "thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself", these are what Jesus Christ called the two greatest commandments (see Mark 12:28–34, Luke 10:25–28, Matthew 22:37–39, Matthew 7:12; cf. Deuteronomy 6:5, Deuteronomy 11:13, Deuteronomy 11:22, Leviticus 19:18, Leviticus 19:34). Christians express this through charity. See also Ministry of Jesus#General ethics.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus said: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (NIV, John 13:34–35; cf. John 15:17). Jesus also taught "Love your enemies." (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27).

"Love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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."

1 Corinthians 13:4–7 (NIV)

The New Testament, which was written in Greek, only used two Greek words for love: agapē and philia. However, there are several Greek words for love.

  • Agapē. In the New Testament, agapē is charitable, selfless, altruistic, and unconditional. It is parental love seen as creating goodness in the world, it is the way God is seen to love humanity, and it is seen as the kind of love that Christians aspire to have for others.
  • Philia. Also used in the New Testament, philia is a human response to something that is found to be delightful. Also known as "brotherly love".
  • Eros (sexual love) is never used in the New Testament but is more prominent in the Old Testament.
  • Storge (needy child-to-parent love) only appears in the compound word philostorgos (Rom 12:10).

Saint Paul glorifies agapē in the quote above from 1 Corinthians 13, and as the most important virtue of all: "Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away." (13:8 NIV).

Christians believe that because of God's agapē for humanity He sacrificed his Son for them. John the Apostle wrote, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:16–17 KJV)

In Works of Love (1847), Søren Kierkegaard, a philosopher, claimed that Christianity is unique because love is a requirement.