“All you need is love.” So sang the Beatles. If they’d been singing about God’s love, the statement would have a grain of truth in it. But what usually goes by the name love in popular culture is not authentic love at all; it’s a deadly fraud. Far from being “all you need,” it’s something you desperately need to avoid.
The apostle Paul makes that very point in Ephesians 5:1–3. He writes, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.”
The simple command of verse 2 (“walk in love, as Christ loved us”) sums up the whole moral obligation of the Christian. After all, God’s love is the single, central principle that defines the Christian’s entire duty. This kind of love is really “all you need.” Romans 13:8–10 says, “The one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments … are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Galatians 5:14 echoes that selfsame truth: “The whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus likewise taught that all the Law and the Prophets hang on two simple principles about love—the first and second great commandments (Matt. 22:38–40). In other words, “love … is the bond of perfection” (Col. 3:14 NKJV).
When Paul commands us to walk in love, the context reveals that in positive terms, he is talking about being kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving to one another (Eph. 4:32). The model for such selfless love is Christ, who gave His life to save His people from their sins. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). And “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
In other words, true love is always sacrificial, self-giving, merciful, compassionate, sympathetic, kind, generous, and patient. These and many other positive, benevolent qualities (see 1 Cor. 13:4–8) are what Scripture associates with divine love.