Love has been described as the greatest need humans have. From the cradle to the grave, people strive for love. Yes, humans thrive in the warmth of love. They may even die from lack of love. People talk a lot about love. There are books and songs and poems about love, but they do not always clarify the meaning of love. In the English language the word "love" has been so overused that it's true meaning seems to be lost.
"Love can be known only by the actions it prompts." The Bible record of God's actions teaches us a great deal about love. The highest example of God's quality of love is His supreme act of love described at John 3:16. In the scriptures, we can find many examples of Jehovah's love in action. And we can gain insight from the ancient Greek words for love used in the Bible.* The one most often used in the Christian Greek Scriptures is a-ga'pe, a love that is guided by principle. This love is more than the emotional response to another person. It is much broader in scope, more thoughtful and deliberate.. Above all, a-ga'pe is totally unselfish. For example, look again at John 3:16. What is "the world" that God loved so much that he gave his only-begotten Son? It is the world of redeemable mankind. That includes many people who are pursuing a sinful course in life. Does Jehovah love each person as a friend, the way he loved faithful Abraham? (James 2:23) No, but Jehovah lovingly extends goodness toward all, even at great cost to himself. He wants all to repent and change their ways. (2 Peter 3:9) Many do change, these He happily receives as his friends. Jehovah's love often includes tender affection. However, his love is never swayed by mere sentiment. It is always guided by his wise and just principles. As we have seen, Jehovah's qualities of Power, Wisdom and Justice are sterling, perfect, and appealing. However, LOVE is the most appealing and nothing draws us to powerfully to Jehovah. Why?
"God is Love"
The scriptures do not say that God is power or that God is justice, or even that God is wisdom. He possesses those qualities, is the ultimate source of them, and beyond comparison in regard to these three. Something very profound is said about the fourth quality, "God is love"-1 John 4:8. What does that mean?
"God is love" is not a simple equation, as if to say "God equals love". The statement cannot be reversed and say, "love is God". Jehovah is much more than an abstract quality. He is a person with a wide array of feelings and characteristics in addition to love. "God's essence or nature is love". Jehovah's power enables him to act. His justice and his wisdom guide the way he acts. But Jehovah's love motivates him to act. And his love is always present in the way he uses his other qualities.
Jehovah is the personification of love. If we want to learn about principled love, we must learn about Jehovah. When we love in an unselfish, principled way, we are reflecting Jehovah's dominant quality. It is just as the apostle John wrote: "As for us, we love, because he first loved us". -1 John 4:19.
*The verb, phi-le'o, meaning "to have affection for, to be fond of, or to like (as one might feel for a close friend or brother)," is often used in the Christian Greek Scriptures (New Testament). The word stor-ge' or close familial love, is used at 2 Timothy 3:3 to show that such love would be lacking during the last days. E'ros, or romantic love between the sexes, is not used in the Christian Greek Scriptures, although it is discussed in the Bible at Proverbs 5:15-20.