The Bible is largely recognized as a divine love story. That being the case, it behooves those who honor that story to try to understand the biblical concept of love. I think most people realize that the word love can mean different things, so we can’t just assume we understand the Bible’s use of the word. What elements, then, are attached to love in a biblical sense?
For me these factors all enter into the concept of divine love we encounter in the Bible:
Forgiveness- Forgive them for they know not what they do. These words of Jesus on the cross point to the fact that there is no love without forgiveness. Our beloved one is always imperfect in some ways. God has to love despite that. Love is blind as the old saying goes; it has to be.
Self Sacrifice- No greater love hath any man than to lay down his life for another. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. Love involves an attachment not based on obvious merit. It requires a relinquishment of the self in favor of another. Love seeks not its own. There is no quid pro quo in love. There is a sense in which extending love serves the lover though. When I love I fulfill a personal need to live abundantly through acts of self sacrifice. Love serves my need even when it is not returned in the manner I think would be appropriate. Love is never wasted on the undeserving because love cannot be wasted.
Obedience/deference- If you love me keep my commandments. This is the aspect of biblical love which causes the most problem because it so easily is seen as mitigating against or even overruling all else that the Bible says about love. The idea of demanded compliance and conformity being a part of God’s divine nature is very confusing for any number of people who attempt to embrace the Bible narrative as a divine love story. I suggest that the word translated commandments refers to something more akin to an admonition or warning. It like the difference between telling your kids to not play in the street as a safety issue and having a city ordinance which says you can’t play in the street. Both are commandments in one sense, but both are not a part of a legislative/judicial system like the Law of Moses, for instance. The law of reaping and sowing passes all the judgment that is ever necessary when we ignore what Jesus taught
Relentless- Love never fails. Love never ceases nor is it unsuccessful in its effort to promote the beloved. Love may appear to the human eye to fail, but it’s impact is powerful no matter what we may observe. We cannot see the human heart and thereby know the full transformative effect of love. If love is not much transformative than our human ability to see would indicate, then the entire Bible narrative is invalidated.