The love discussed in 1 John 4:8 is both a noun and a verb as follows:
- Verb: ἀγαπάω (ἀγαπάω), eg, Matt 5:43, 44, 46, 6:24, etc.
- Noun: ἀγάπη (agapé), eg, Matt 24:12, Luke 11:42, etc.
The Bible actually talks about more than one type of love but this ἀγαπάω love is the "highest" principled love because it is supremely other-centered.
It has been truly observed that this principled love does not necessarily involve any sentimental feelings but they are not excluded. It is an "esteem", "respectful regard", etc.
For more information about the Bible ideas of love, see the appendix below.
APPENDIX - Love
The Bible does not discuss just one type of love but clearly recognizes several kinds. The Greek language had six words for various kinds of love, but only three of these broad categories are discussed here. They are arranged into a kind of hierarchy – the widest first and the narrowest last.
“Agape” love (Greek: agapao (v) or agape (n))
This is the most general kind of love and does not necessarily involve any sentimentality, feelings nor whim. Nor does this kind of love necessarily involve liking somebody. It springs purely from principle and is often opposed to the natural inclinations. This dependable, abiding and constant love is celebrated in 1 Cor 13. It is others-focused, so excludes all self-centeredness.
The best definition of agape love is, “God so loved … that He gave His son …” (John 3:16). The “agape” love is the central most important characteristic, the very essence, of God (1 John 4:8, 16). Love’s outward manifestation is grace. It is God as love that defines God and all else about Him such as justice/righteousness tempered with kindness.
This principled love of God (1 John 4:8, 16) is to be imitated by all Christians (John 13:34, 35) and is motivated by God’s love for us (1 John 4:9, 10, 19-21, 2 Cor 5:14). Thus, love is quintessentially Christian and reached its zenith when God gave Jesus as the solution to the sin problem (2 Cor 5:14, Eph 2:4, 3:19, 5:2, John 3:16). Therefore, Christians should have as their primary focus their love of, and love to God (Matt 22:37, Deut 6:5), and secondarily love to fellow humans (Matt 22:39, Lev 19:18).
This word is used to describe God’s love to Jesus (John 17:26) and humankind generally (John 3:16, Rom 5:8). It also describes the love that Christians should have to all people (1 Thess 3:12, 1 Cor 16:14, 2 Peter 1:7).
From this agape love springs all else and expresses itself in obedience to God’s commandments (John 14:15, 21, 23, 15:10, 1 John 2:5, 5:3, 2 John 6). Love is the root of respect for others’ opinions and choices; thus it is also the basis for freedom of choice (which see) and freedom of religion (which see). See “Freedom”.
Isa 63:9 expresses the kind of empathetic love that God has for each person. “In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”
Friendship, Affection (Greek: phileo (v) or philos (n))
Friendships arise between people who have some kind of common interest. Affection may arise from a deeper friendship where greater closeness and some physical contact is appropriate. Thus, affection exists between family members, close friends, or even pets, etc. In the New Testament the word most commonly represents tender affection. (Its close cognate relative, “philema”, means, “kiss”.)
The word is used to describe the love of the Father for Jesus (John 5:20) and the believing Christian (John 16:27, 20:2).
In the New Testament, this philos love is never used in a command of men to love God.
Erotic Love (Greek: eros (n))
Erotic love involves sexual intimacy which, within a marriage, is highly praised in the Bible but condemned outside marriage. The book “Song of Solomon” is a celebration of this kind of love.
The hierarchy of love means that agape-love is a necessary pre-requisite to friendship and affection, and that friendship is a necessary prerequisite to erotic love (SS 5:16). It is the frequent inversion of this hierarchy in modern culture that has created so much interpersonal tension and societal difficulties, and directly leads to the oxymoron of selfish love. Such would be impossible if our love had its proper origin in divinely inspired agape love.