Christian Living / Marriage

“To love”, (Ahav)ah. What does that really mean for us?

Updated June 24, 2023

“To love” based on today’s standards can look like many different things. This Valentine’s Day season I can’t stop thinking about the Hebrew word ahavah, which means “to love.”I use love all the time: I love my family, I love God, I love ice cream, I love children… but what does that mean? And how do they know I love them? 

The root word is ahav, which means “to give” - embedded in this idea of loving, is giving.

The way we show our love, is by giving ourselves to the object of our affection.


We had a death in our family this year, and immediately following the news, people began to demonstrate their love for us by delivering meals, asking questions how we were doing, helping with simple tasks, and praying for us.  They were showing how they felt through their actions. The result: we felt loved.

The Bible is full of examples of this.

You read about a heavenly Father who loved us so much, that He gave His only Son.

Throughout the New Testament we hear Paul teaching the early church how to practically show love to each other, and thus put God on display.

In the Old Testament we read accounts of sacrificial parents and generous leaders.

This is clearly a God idea- to love is to give. I am challenging myself this season- do those I love see me demonstrating it?


Who Are We Called To?

Who are called to love our family, friends and foreigner, the lost, the least of these, our enemies and our neighbors. We do this by giving them time, attention, and gifts. We share our lives and are willingly uncomfortable for their benefit. This is biblical. The command to love is called the greatest of commands.

Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. 

What We Have To Give

What we have to give, we first get from Him. It might seem like someone has a bigger capacity to give, but what it tells us is they’ve learned to tap into the Father’s unlimited supply. If someone listens well, they have been heard by God. If they are encouragers or generous, you know they have received what they needed from Him. We are conduits of Him, connected through the Spirit to an unending measure.

If we are to love the Lord, and the idea behind that is giving, what does it mean to give him my heart, my soul, and my mind?

How do I ask God for what I need to give back to others?

We can give time, advocacy, forgiveness, grace, encouragement, tangible needs, prayer, and the list goes on. Instead of focusing on where I am not receiving what I want, I am asking the Lord to use this greeting card holiday as an internal check- how am I giving to others?

I am hoping to be more mindful of opportunities for sacrifice, and putting action to my feelings. I’m praying for a revolution, because loving creates change- both in the giver and the recipient.


I was sharing about ahavah in a group setting, and a man offered up he had attended a Jewish wedding, where the rabbi taught when you say ahavah, you hold out the last syllable, “ah” for as long as you can. It symbolizes we are to love and give, until we are literally out of breath.

Dr. Curt Thompson said, “Every child is born into the world, looking for someone looking at them- and they never stop.” 

I am committing to be out of breath this month, giving to people in my home and community until they see I am looking at them.

Here are some questions I am asking myself this Valentine’s Day. Feel free to download these cards to use as a journal prompt in your own time with the Lord, or to ask your friends and family around the dinner table!

About Author

Beth Guckenberger is the Co-Executive Director of Back2Back Ministries and founder of the Reckless Faith Movement. Beth and Todd have a large family they’ve formed through biological, foster, and adoptive children. She is an author and speaker, sharing her experience as a mother, a missionary, and a student of God’s Word.