Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Shades of Love

Ambiguity Abounds

Love. We toss around that term as if we’re stuck in Communication 101. Does our language lack suitable alternatives to convey our warm sentiments or do we have an emotional addiction to the word love? If love were a person, she ought to go on strike until we understand better when to call her into service. She must be exhausted!

We all do it. I love my cat. I love to play the drums. I love sunny days. I love my new phone. I love your outfit. I love the Beatles. I love that I get five days off for Christmas. I love Tom Brady. I love my neighborhood. I love my job (well, maybe only some of us!). I love Bobby Sue.

Can you blame Bobby Sue if she’s confused, especially if those words came from a man’s lips? And Tom Brady? He gets more love than he knows what to do with.

Webster’s Take

The Merriam-Webster dictionary lists five primary definitions for the verb love:

  1. To hold dear
  2. To feel a lover’s passion, devotion or tenderness
  3. To like or desire actively
  4. To thrive in
  5. To feel affection or experience desire

As you can see, love is a versatile word. We may understand its meaning when we know its context. However, as emotional beings, we can’t always be objective. Sometimes, we’ll misunderstand.


When National Football League players went on strike in 1987, the league hired replacement players. It’s time we do the same for love. Here’s my list:

  1. Cherish
  2. Caress, hug, kiss
  3. Take pleasure in, really like, drawn to
  4. Thrive in, bask in
  5. Adore

Let’s not eliminate the use of the word love altogether, but could we change things up to provide clarity and improve our relationships.

Sometimes, we use the word love as an overstatement. Verbs such as respect, like, admire, think the world of, delight in, relish, care about, savor and enjoy may act as more precise replacements. If we use up our love on objects, activities or other people, what’s left for the people who are closest to us? With a newly expanded vocabulary and greater sensitivity to our tone of voice, perhaps people will better understand our true feelings. I know we’re supposed to love our spouse, but do we really love our favorite latte?

The Ultimate Definition

Human attempts at love, in all permutations, seem superficial compared to God’s love. The Bible says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8b ESV). Jesus Himself put love into perspective: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 ESV).

God brought love alive for us. He put it into action – in the form of sacrifice. The Bible puts it this way:

“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” (Romans 5:7-8 ESV).

With the various meanings we have for the nebulous word love, it’s no wonder people have a hard time grasping the Bible’s version. Our use of the term usually expresses an emotion and may come with tethers. God’s love, however, is unconditional. It doesn’t fluctuate as human love does. We can do nothing to make God love us any more or less than He already does. His love defies comprehension.

Nevertheless, we embrace love with our hearts, not our minds. God has shown us ultimate love, which prompts the ultimate question. Jesus’ shed blood makes peace with God possible – if we accept Him. While improving our communication can help our relationships on earth, our eternal destiny hangs on that ultimate question: How will I respond to God’s love?

Copyright © Tim Bishop 2017, used with permission.

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