God loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Words to an old children’s song. But what does it mean? (For the condensed answer, skip down to the blue Takeaway at the end.)
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines love as…
Strong affection for another rising out of kinship or personal ties [love for a child]
Attraction based on sexual desire, affection and tenderness felt by lovers (in love)
Affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests [old schoolmates]
Warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion [love of the sea]
The object of attachment, devotion, or admiration [baseball]
A beloved person [hello, Love, good to see you]
Unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another such as the fatherly concern of God for humankind, brotherly concern for others
a person’s adoration of God
a god or personification of love
an amorous episode
the sexual embrace
a score of zero (as in tennis)
to hold dear
to feel a lover’s passion, devotion, or tenderness
to like or desire actively, take pleasure in [love playing the violin]
to thrive in [roses love sunlight]
to feel affection or experience desire
Basically this is saying the definition of love changes based on how it’s used.
So, what does the Bible mean when it says God loves us? All of the above? Some? None?
I did a quick word study of a random sampling of verses that used the word love. Here’s what I found.
In the Old Testament:
Deut 6:5 … love the LORD… with all your heart
Is 43:4 Because you are precious in my eyes… I love you…
Jer 31:3 I have loved you with an everlasting love
the word used for love was ahabtik: to have affection
In another Old Testament verse:
Ps 36:7 how precious is your steadfast love…
the word used for love was hasdeka: kindness, piety, reproof, beauty
In the New Testament:
1 John 4:16 … come to know… the love that God has for us… God is love…
Eph 2:4 … his great love for us…
1 John 3:1 … see what kind of love the Father has given us…
Rom 8:39 … separate us from the love of God…
1 Cor 13:2 … but have not love…
Rev 2:4 … you have abandoned the love you had at first…
the word used for love is agapen: affection or benevolence; specially a love-feast
In other New Testament verses:
1 John 4:20 … If someone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother…
John 13:34 … a new commandment… love one another just as I have loved you…
Rom 9:13 … Jacob I loved, Esau I hated…
John 3:16 … God so loved the world…
Matt 22:37 … love the Lord your God with all your heart…
the word used for love is agapo: to love, wish well, to take pleasure in, long for, denotes the love of reason, esteem. Perhaps from agan; to love.
And in another New Testament verse:
John 16:27 …the Father himself loves you because you have loved me…
the word for love is philei: from philos; to be a friend to (an individual or an object) i.e. have affection for, specially to kiss
I think what surprised me the most was the word used in Deut 6:5. I would have thought to love God with all our heart would have a stronger word than ahabtik: to have affection.
I was also quite surprised to find the word love in John 16:27 where Jesus says the Father loves us because we love Him means to be friends with, have affection for, specially, to kiss. Friends? I know Jesus called us friends, and Jesus and the Father are one, but I never thought of myself as a friend of the Father. And kiss? The Father kisses us because we love Jesus? What a heartwarming visual!
The rest of the words for love are applied to “us” and “the world”. As a follower of Christ, I am part of “us” and “the world” so those apply to me. If you are a part of “us” and “the world” you can apply them to yourself, also.
What does the Bible mean when it says God loves me?
God has affection for me.
God is a friend to me.
God kisses me.
God is benevolent (well-meaning, kind, desire to do good) towards me.
God has given me a love feast (a banquet or gathering of persons to promote good feeling, restore friendly relations, honor a special guest, etc.)
God wishes me well.
God takes pleasure in me.
God longs for me.
God esteems me.
Isn’t God’s love for us amazing!
Which definition impacted you the most? Comment below. Comments help keep me motivated to write and sometimes teaches me new things. I truly appreciate everyone who takes the time to leave one.