Merriam-Webster.com’s definitions of love include, “(1) A strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties, and (2) attraction based on sexual desire.” When you type “in love” into their search engine the results for “love” come on the screen implying there’s not a difference. In fact, finding an official definition of “in love” on the web came close to non-existent despite the fact that the Google AdWords Keyword Tool confirms it’s searched over seven million times a month globally. Why, when it’s such a common belief that the two terms differ?
You’ll probably find the word “love” defined in any dictionary. However, nearly all believers would agree that the most trusted definition of love comes from the Bible. The Amplified translation of the Bible scripture in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 says:
Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening]. Love never fails [it never fades nor ends]. But as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for the gift of special knowledge, it will pass away.
Most web searches for the term “in love” summarized what the feelings of being in love might include more than they defined what “in love” actually means. Amidst those overwhelming descriptions, a Princeton.edu WordNet search defined “in love” amongst adjectives like, “Enamored, “infatuated” and “smitten.” They also concluded “in love” to mean, “Marked by foolish or unreasoning fondness,” as well—what’s seemingly a definition for the term, and probably the closest (if not the only) official definition on the web.
Is There a Difference?
It’s not far-fetched to say that the worldly meaning of “I love you” and “I’m in love with you” depends on feelings more than anything else. When keeping the Biblical context in mind, both terms have more to do with a proactive response, despite feelings—where loving someone means affection no matter the circumstance, and being in love with someone means walking out the principle. In that case, the real question isn’t about the difference between the two, but rather a matter of belief, principle and doctrine.