Love as an abstract concept is hard to define in words because of its subjective nature in language. Love per human intelligence, wisdom and emotion can be defined differently by people depending on culture, personal preferences and context. Granted that cultural and sociological elements influence our categorization of certain acts as being actions of love or not, the bible outlines certain essential properties that objectively constitute love.
Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. 1 CORINTHIANS 13:4-7
1 Corinthians 13 is a famous chapter centred on love. As seen above it enlists the virtues of patience, kindness, longsuffering etc. The next few paragraphs would be dedicated to explaining in some detail, what some of these virtues that characterize selfless love according to the bible.
Patience And Tolerance
We would not need to be patient with one another if we were all the same. If we had the same values, ideas and communication skills we wouldn’t need to have patience with and tolerate one another. Selfless love understands that we’re all different people with different perspectives. Love looks beyond oneself and considers other people. In order for us to exhibit true love we need to have an understanding that our differences in perspective may cause frictions and disagreements and that it is normal for people to have views and opinions that do not necessarily align with ours. The Christian life is supposed to exemplify genuine patience and tolerance.
For instance the fact that people of other Faiths or religions have a different perspective from us doesn’t preclude us from peacefully coexisting with them in our communities, schools and workplaces. No matter a person’s race, ethnicity, beliefs etc. God asks us to love them. “…Love your neighbour as yourself.”(Matthew 22:39). Our neighbours may not always be in agreement with us, but it takes tolerance and patience to be able to show the selfless and unshackled love.
Humility And Meekness
Love, humility and meekness are inseparable virtues. It is impossible to exhibit love without being meek and having a spirit of humility. Meekness and humility should not be mistaken for timidity. One can be assertive, proactive and still have be meek and humble. A humble person does not brag on his achievements, he is rather magnanimous in victory. No matter the heights you may have reached in life, you need to be able to relate with people who for one reason or the other are less privileged or successful than you are.
Your success as a humble person helps build others up instead of intimidating and tearing them down. “…knowledge puffeth up but love edifieth.”(1 Corinthians 8:1). Usually the privileges, knowledge and information we have over another may reveal some characteristics of pride in us but it takes the spirit of humility to produce the love in us that edifies others.
Eph 4:32 KJV And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Selfless love forgives. You cannot claim to love a person if you cannot look past that person’s offences or wrongs he/she has committed towards you. We all make mistakes from time to time but perfect love overlooks our errors, forgives and forgets about them as though they never happened. True love does not keep record of our wrong doing. God continues to show us love everyday by forgiving us of all our sins against Him. In order to love those we claim to care about, we need to follow God’s example of dying for a word in its depravity.
Joh 15:13 KJV Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
The greatest showcase of love is to lay down your life for another. Every human being has intrinsic value and that is what drives us to seek self preservation. All rational humans are naturally inclined to seek their best interests and death is not one of them. It takes the highest level of love for one to deny himself of his right to life just to ensure that another’s life is preserved.
What does our love look like? Does it have any of the discussed characteristics? In order to be able to exhibit true selfless love, we ought to have the Spirit of God because God is love. Therefore it only makes sense that the perfect representation of love which is our Lord Jesus Christ laying His life down for our sins would be believed in. Having Jesus in our heart is the first and inevitable step to take in order to portray selfless love.