If you had to choose one, which is the most important love verse in the Bible? Why would you choose one over the other? What seems to be the most important verses in the Bible on love?
For God So Loved the World
John 3:16 “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Some manuscripts take the first part of this verse, “God so loved the world” and render it as “for this is how God loved the world.” I like that very much. When we get closer to the literal Greek wording of this verse, it gets even better. We could read it as: “For this is how God loved the world, that He gave His one and unique Son, that whoever believes in Him will never perish but have everlasting life.” Either way you read it, this Bible verse may be the most important verse of all for it displays such a sacrificial love – a life-giving love – which is unequaled and unmatched in all the world. Love is a verb and it’s what you do…and this act at Calvary was the most supreme act of love that has ever been displayed. That Christ died for us while we were still His enemies and most unworthy sinners at that, shows that love is an act of the will and not a feeling in the heart.
John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
We could paraphrase this verse to read, “No one has a greater love than that which he or she would willingly die for their friend.” This reminds me of the many veterans who are serving and who have ever served their countries for their nation’s freedom. Many did give their lives to defend what we often take for granted. I have heard true stories of veterans who threw themselves on hand grenades to save their fellow soldiers lives but didn‘t live to tell about it. Those whom they saved retell this most selfless act. That kind of love reflects the agape love of God. The agape love is the greatest love that there is and it is the type of love that gives a person over to sacrificing their own life to save another. This love was most abundantly displayed on the cross by Jesus Christ. He gave His life as a ransom for the many (Mark 10:45, 1 Tim 2:6).
Love Your Enemies
Matthew 5:43-45 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
It is natural to love your family and friends, but to love those who hate you and persecute you? Wow. God loved us before we even existed (Eph 1) and died for us while we were still sinners and His enemies. By the way, anytime Jesus says “You have heard it said” He is referring to the Old Testament laws and so when Jesus follows that by saying “but I say to you,” He is referring to the New and better Testament. This is a difficult one indeed and it can’t be done in human strength but only by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this reference in Matthew, Jesus says that God is gracious even to those who are sinners, sending sunshine and rain to them…which are essential to life. The analogy might be that God even gives the sinner’s good things in life because He is a benevolent God. This is why good things sometimes happen to bad people.
Love Is Unselfish
First Corinthians 12:4-8 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
First Corinthians chapter 13 may be the greatest chapter on love in all the Bible and love is displayed here by many tangible evidences. It is patient; with people and circumstances. It is kind; to people and animals. It doesn’t brag; about self but brags about others and glorifies God and gives Him the credit. It isn’t arrogant; lording over people your position, power, or knowledge. It isn’t rude; but polite and displays manners and proper etiquette. It doesn’t insist on its own way; but give precedence and priorities to others, even if it has to compromise. It isn’t irritable; it is not easily provoked to anger by people or circumstances. It isn’t resentful; it rejoices when others succeed, even at their own expense. It doesn’t rejoice in wrongdoing; it never delights in other people’s sins…instead, it rejoices in the truth of the Bible, it bears all thing (all means all), believes all things (gives people the benefit of the doubt), hopes all things (hopes for the best for all concerned) and endures all (all, like being used, abused, persecuted and so on). These things are love.
Love Your Neighbor as Your Self
Mark 12:30-31 “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The religious leaders were trying to trip Jesus up by asking Him which was the greatest commandment and Jesus nailed it spot on when He said that we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, might, mind, and soul. But we are also to love our neighbors. Who are our neighbors? In the Parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus showed that all men and women are our neighbors and so we should love them as well, even if they were a “Samaritan” to us. Part of this command is not obeyed by many good Christians…the part where we are to love ourselves as our neighbors. When we hate ourselves and are extremely hard on ourselves, we are breaking this commandment where we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Love One Another
John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
In what is called the High Priestly Prayer in John 13 and 14, Jesus gave the disciples, and by extension, all who would be His disciples, a new commandment. This new commandment was to love one another “just as” or in the same manner that Christ loves us. That is a big-time love my friend. By this love we have for one another “all people will know that you are my disciples” and so this love for one another is evangelistic and it is diagnostic…diagnostic in the sense that it proves that we are either His disciple or we are not. In the church today there are both wheat and tares and Christ will separate them some day. Those who are His inherit eternal life…those that are tares, are plucked up and burned.
If You Love Me, Obey My Commandments
John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
At first glance, this doesn’t appear to be worthy of being on anyone’s top 10 list of Bible verses on love, but wait…let me explain why I chose this one. We display our love for others when they ask us to do something and we do it willingly because we love them. If we truly love Jesus, why wouldn’t we want to please Him by obeying what He has told us to do? Obedience is preferred over sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22). Samuel asks a rhetorical question in this verse: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” God would rather have a person obey Him than to offer many or costly sacrifices because obedience shows respect and love for the one to whom it is given.
Love Covers a Multitude of Sins
First Peter 4:8 “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”
My children and grandchildren sin and will sin again but no amount of sins will ever stop me from loving them. My friends have sometimes sinned against me too but to display my love for them, I am willing to forgive them, whether they ask my forgiveness or not. Since we are all sinners, I can not cast the first stone and many times I have caught them in a sin but never mention it to anyone else. Love does not gossip and when see others sin and don’t tell other people, we are covering for them. The exception is that if it hurst the church…like gossip. If they acknowledge their sin, repent of it, and confess it, then it is covered by God and so why would I gossip to others to say, “Hey, did you hear about so and so and what he/she did?” Jesus death on the cross, and the love displayed in that action, covers all of our sins (2 Cor 5:21). Proverbs 17:9 says much the same thing as the author writes, “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” and that “love covers over all wrongs” (Prov 10:12b).
Love of a Friend
Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
I have a close, special friend of mine who is a man and I am not ashamed to tell him that I love him. I love him more than a brother. This man is honest enough to tell me the truth, even when he knows it hurts and he is open enough to hear a friends rebuke. King David and Jonathan had a love like this as described in 1 Samuel 18:1 “As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” What a precious thing. Their souls were knit together…they were made of the same fabric, so to speak. Jonathan loved David “as his own soul” which reminds me of Jesus’ second commandment of the two greatest…to love your neighbor as yourself. This was repeated later in 1 Samuel 20:17 when “Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.”
Genesis 29:20 “Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.”
Husband and wives love is reflective of Christ’s love for the church and the church of her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:25-28 is one of the best descriptions of how a husband should love his wife, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”
Men, there is no “plan B.” This is an imperative command. Men are to love their wives as themselves and as Christ loves the church and gave Himself for her. The greatest thing a husband can do for his wife is to love her. Women, the greatest need for a man is to have respect for him because respect is interpreted as love just as women interprets love as respect for her. Men and women have different needs and so for men it is to be respected and for women it is to be loved. The husband and wife relationship is like that of Christ and the church in that it is a sacrificial love. When a man loves his wife, he would willingly give his life for her while the wife would more easily submit for a man willing to do this.
To me, these are the 10 most important verses in the Bible on love. You may have different ones. If you do, please leave a comment and tell us which is your favorite Bible verse or verses on love. What Bible verse is the most important to you and why? Add your favorite Bible verse on love in the comments section below so that we might add it to our Bible verse love bank and by doing so, we can accumulate a vast treasure trove of God’s infinite love for those who Christ died for and even for those who are outside of the faith. There is no greater love, there is no love more sacrificial, and there is no love that dies in your place, than that of Jesus Christ who died for us while we were still His enemies. Paul wrote of this exact thing in Romans 5:6-8, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
If you have not yet repented, confessed your sins, and trusted in Christ to save you from God’s wrath, then you don’t know the full extent of Gods’ love yet. John 3:36 says that “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” because “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). I pray that is not you.
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Jack Wellman is Senior Writer at What Christians Want to Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible.
Resources: The Holy Bible (NIV Version),