Love is a formidable force, an essential human need, and yet so hard to explain. Unconditional love is something every Christian parent aspires to give, as Jesus gives to us. If you want to learn more about unconditional love in the bible, read on.
Unconditional love requires understanding and intention. It’s important not to let your feelings lead your love. Maybe that sounds funny to you. Isn’t love a feeling? Not entirely. God is love and has given us instructions on how to love well. Let’s dig into the biblical meaning of love.
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Don’t feel at all bad if you can’t easily define perfect love in a few words. There are many songs begging the question, “What is love?” – such as the popular 90’s song by Haddaway. And if you’re older, then there’s the Foreigner song, “I wanna know what love is.”
Millennials…apparently solved it? According to Rhianna’s, “We Found Love”, it was in a hopeless place.
Love is often described as a strong feeling of affection or preference for something or someone. It has also been described as a process that happens to you, such as “falling in love” (or out of it). Some speak of love as a person, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” And some speak of love as something to take hold of, like a possession. “All you need is love.”
Bible Verses About Love
Love is talked about at great length in the Bible. It is the sum of the commandments given to all believers by Jesus ( Matthew 22:35-40). And I Corinthians 13 is focused entirely on love, calling it the greatest thing- even more than hope and faith (I Corinthians 13:13).
God Is Love
Love is one of the attributes that are the dividing line between godliness and ungodliness. We cannot be godly and not love.
“God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him” (I John 4:16, WEB).
Perhaps the best argument for the un-graspable nature of love is that God is love and all love comes from God. God is bigger than we can imagine, and so love might also be.
As Christians, the sum of the law is in loving God and others. If you want to love others well, Jesus told us to love as he did. “This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you” (John 15:12, WEB).
There are many words in the Bible that are translated in English as “love,” but each has a more specific meaning in Greek, the original language of the Bible. The Greek word used to describe God’s love for us and the love we are commanded to give is agapé.
If it’s a command, then it’s something you can act on. So if you feel love, but don’t act on it, then it’s just affection, not love. Love takes action.
The Biblical Meaning of Unconditional Love
To love someone unconditionally, you can’t be at the whims of your mood or feelings in a moment. If you don’t feel loving, but act loving, it’s unconditional love.
Unconditional love means choosing to love regardless of circumstances. To love unconditionally is to decide to love someone regardless of any circumstances about them and to keep loving them no matter what they do. It means acting kindly even when someone doesn’t deserve it. Unconditional love depends on the giver’s commitment, not the qualification of the recipient.
Paul describes the unconditional love of God in Romans 8:38-39.
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Nothing can separate us from God’s love. It’s unconditional and undefeatable.
Unconditional Love Elevates.
“Behold, how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! For this cause the world doesn’t know us, because it didn’t know him” (I John 3:1, WEB).
Unconditional love doesn’t call names or fixate on flaws. Love sees the potential for the best and hopes for the best in others. Love sees the overlooked, the sad, the broken and picks them. It holds them and brings healing and wholeness.
Unconditional Love Drives Out Fear.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear because fear has punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love” (I John 4:18, WEB).
Unconditional love doesn’t use fear in an attempt to control or coerce. Love protects others and helps calm fears. Love brings peace and calm to chaos, as L.R. Knost points out in this beautiful observation.
Unconditional Love Sacrifices.
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (I John 4:10).
Sacrificial love means choosing to give up something for the sake of someone else’s betterment. And unconditional love requires sacrifice because it means giving up everything that would hold you back from loving someone. Maybe they were unkind to you, cruel even. Maybe they don’t love you or even hate you. Even then, unconditional love loves.
As Christians, Jesus is our example for how to do all things, including how to love well. God chose to love us sacrificially, regardless of our faults and failures through the sacrifice of Christ.
As Paul said, “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! ” (Romans 5:8, HCSB).
While we were unlovely, at our worst, and without hope, God loved us so much that He sent His only begotten son to die for us.
Get your free Bible verse coloring page for Romans 5:8
And Jesus himself instructed, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
John, the most love-focused biblical writer taught, “By this, we know love because he laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (I John 3:16).
How To Show Unconditional Love
Jesus used the Greek word agapé when instructing us to love. Sometimes agapé has been translated as “unconditional love.”
Agapé is unconditional in that it is a love that originates from the choice of the giver, not on the condition of the receiver. Agape love does not change, even if the recipient changes. Unconditional love is a decision and a commitment on the part of the one who loves.
So if you want to show unconditional love, then start with deciding. Decide you will show love no matter what happens.
- Be patient and kind when others are rude.
- Make sacrifices for others, especially when they don’t deserve it.
- Never use fear and intimidation, even when you feel fearful and intimidated.
- Elevate others. Help them get head and encourage them along the way.
- Look for and point out the best in others, especially those in whom it’s hard to see.
Not only is it important “not to let your feelings lead your love.” But when you act against your feelings to choose love, it is the most unconditional.
Decisions and feelings are not the fullness of love, however. “Love does” as Bob Goff says, it acts.
How To Show Unconditional Love To Your Child
If you want to know the secret on how to love your children unconditionally, look to scripture. The most famous description of love is, of course, I Corinthians 13:4-7,
“Love is patient and is kind; love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud, doesn’t behave itself inappropriately, doesn’t seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil; doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Be patient, kind, humble, and willing to not have things go your way. Don’t let their behavior provoke you to act inappropriately. Don’t keep track of their mistakes.
Examples of showing love to your child
Protecting your child is one of the important ways to show your child love. Protecting them includes dressing them appropriately for the weather so they don’t get sick. It means keeping a watchful eye while they’re at the playground so they don’t fall. It means saying no letting them watch inappropriate videos online.
Nourishing your child is another way to show love. It means providing healthy food. Building up your whole child also includes nourishing his soul with God’s word and feeding her brain with knowledge.
Download Free Bible Verse Coloring Pages For Your Kids
The Greatest Love Is Sacrificial
Loving our children means sacrificing for them. It means giving up our egos, our ambitions, and yes even our lives for them. We join in Christ-like love when we sacrifice for the sake of our kids. Here’s a few examples of what that sacrificial love can look like.
Sacrificial love means getting up in the middle of the night when you are exhausted to feed or comfort your hungry baby. It means cleaning up messes of poop, vomit, and everything else little ones produce or get into.
It means not getting my nails done, so we can afford to sign my daughter up for volleyball.
It means humbly walking out the door this morning with wild hair because the time I had for doing my hair was taken up by the needs of my toddler.
Unconditional Love Holds Boundaries
Just because you love unconditionally, doesn’t mean you can’t have boundaries. In fact, holding your child to a standard and having boundaries is a loving part of parenting.
To love someone is to have their best interests at heart in all that you do. It is not loving to allow your child to touch a hot surface, wander off into the street, or talk online with strangers. Dangerous and unhealthy activities need to be reigned in to protect and grow your child in healthy ways.
For example, I believe I am loving my son when I say no to eating candy all the time. I am protecting and nourishing him by limiting him to more healthy choices.
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How To Make Your Child Feel Loved
My son recently informed me that I do not love him as much as his friend’s mom loves his friend, “because she lets him have whatever he wants.” I let him know that it is because I love him that I don’t let him have whatever he wants and that his friend’s mom probably says “no” more than he sees.
As much as we might feel and act loving towards our kids we can’t “make” them feel… anything. A great phrase I love to use for helping us understand how our actions impact each other’s feeling is,
“When you ______, I feel_________.”
If your child is verbal you can ask, “What do I do or say that makes you feel loved?” Another great tool to help you demonstrate love in the way your child receives it is the book The Five Love Languages of Children.
Either way you look at it, learning how to love your child in a way that they can receive it requires being a student of your child. Ask, listen, observe and adjust your words and actions accordingly.
Do loving things that are within the bounds of what’s protective and nourishing. Sorry, son, giving you candy whenever you want is not how I am going to show that I love you.
Should Love Your Spouse or Your Child More?
There’s a teaching out there floating around that Christian wives should love their husbands more than their children. I see no evidence for this in the Bible. And honestly, I don’t think the kind of love we are instructed to give is to be portioned out in certain amounts to some more than others.
There are only two levels of love I see in Scripture “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30, WEB), and “love your neighbor as yourself” (vs 31).
In my opinion, this is the only valid comparison of who to love most. If several people you love are at odds, I think a more valuable question to ask is what choice will benefit the health & well-being of the other most?
For example, if your husband asks you to bring him a cup of milk, but your child fell down and is bleeding – you choose to care for the child because their well-being is most at stake.
On the other hand, if your child wants to stay out at a party late, but your husband wants to go home because he needs to get up early in the morning, you go home to support the well-being of your husband. The choice is between well-being and indulgence, not between two people.
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
Don’t get me wrong. I fail all the time. I indulge, insist on my own way, and react poorly every day. That’s why I also need to love myself in order to love well.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
When I am feeling nourished, protected, and care for, it’s easier for me to choose the same. And a parent, that means I must carve time for nourishing myself in the Word or going for a walk to relieve stress. I need to draw from the well of Love Himself – God – so that I can overflow with love to my kids and others.
Some Final Thoughts on How to Love Your Children Like Jesus
To love your child like Jesus doesn’t depend on how you feel. It’s OK if you don’t like or even can’t stand your child right now. Loving them is about what you choose to do for their well-being.
God’s love is so much more than I can grasp, much less put into words. If you want to know how to love your children like Jesus, the most useful thing you can do is draw near to Jesus.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God” (I John 4:8).
He will show you perfect love and will pour out love through you. He has revealed himself in Jesus who demonstrated and taught us how to love one another.
Finally, I hope that you may have what Paul prayed in Ephesians 3:17-19
“I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:
Love and Fear in the Bible
How to Raise Grateful Kids
Parenting in Christ: Treasures for Parenting from Jesus
Tiffany MontgomeryJanuary 25, 2020
I love this. God is love and when we love our children well we are teaching them that God’s love is greater and stronger. My prayer for my children is that they know God personally, love Him and allow Him to love them long after I have gone to be with Him.
Christina DronenJanuary 31, 2020
Yes, this is my prayer too! For my children to understand that God loves them more than anyone and to receive and continue to share His love. 🙂
Rachel MayewJanuary 27, 2020
The way you point out there being one, holy way to love all people really resonates with me. If God loves each of us equally, no matter how we receive the redeeming truth, I can see that we should love our spouses and our children well. Period, end of story! There’s no need to fret over who comes first. Thanks for this perspective.
Christina DronenJanuary 31, 2020
Definitely! Our love isn’t dependent on our kids, but our heavenly Father who taught us to love through Jesus. Thanks to God for showing us true love!
Karen FridayJanuary 27, 2020
Wonderful and practical advice on defining love and showing examples of what this may look like in everyday life. Agree the Bible is where we get our definition for love…from all the verses you share, especially 1 Cor. 13. What I like about the Corinthians passage is how it tells us what love IS and what love IS NOT. It’s kind of a compare and contrast. Funny how your son said your love wasn’t as great as another mom who seems to be without healthy boundaries. When we give our kinds anything they want, we are actually causing unmet needs in them rather than fulfilling what they need most. A strong, steady, and secure love that loves for the right reasons and with the child’s best interest in mind. Thanks for this great insight!
Christina DronenJanuary 31, 2020
Thank you Karen! Yes, definitely love has healthy boundaries and protects those healthy boundaries! I hope my son understands that soon. 🙂
It’s because I love him that I say no.
SaraMay 16, 2021
I too do not understand why it is being taught in the church to love your children less than your spouse, some are even telling their children this, to make sure they know they are not as loved. I find this a bit disturbing. The Bible says God the father even loves us as much as He loves Jesus, isn’t that a model for us to love all people equally? Do you know why this is being taught? Did something start this?
Christina DronenMay 18, 2021
It is a disturbing thing to drill into children. God warns us not to show favoritism.
I don’t know what started it, but certainly, there is no scripture to back it. I suspect extreme patriarchy.. that’s where I’ve heard it most and directed at women to choose their husbands over their children.
The way I see it there are only 2 levels – love God above all, then love others and ourselves as Jesus has loved us.