What is LOVE? We talk about love all the time. We want to be loved. We want to love others. We tell people we love them. We try our best to be loving. We don’t want to be unloving. We acknowledge that some things in the world are lovely. What does it all mean?
These are some thoughts and Scriptures about LOVE …
True love is not temporary, fleeting, or self-serving. This verse shows us what love — fickle human “love” — should not be:
“For YOUR LOVE is like a morning cloud, And like the dew that disappears early.”
Instead, true LOVE is forever;
“Yahweh appeared of old to me, saying, Yes, I have LOVED you with an everlasting LOVE: therefore with LOVING kindness have I drawn you.”
“LOVE never fails.”
—1 Corinthians 13:8
Love is in and emanates out of the heart:
“God’s LOVE has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
“… I have you in my heart … For God is my witness, how I long after all of you in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus.”
Love is NOT intellectual knowledge or information, but is distinct from these. Knowledge and discernment are by-products of love:
“This I pray, that your LOVE may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment”
Sometimes we say that love is a commitment. And while this is good practical advice for fickled hearted human beings, love is truly more than a commitment, contract or service level agreement. The word “love” cannot merely be substituted with the word “commitment” as if to diminish the need for the unique word “love.”
Love is love, and no other word or concept can stand in its place.
“Whys” and “Whats”
There are “whys” and there are “whats.” Love is a “why.” Commitment is a “what.” Knowledge is a “what.” Discernment is a “what.”
A “why” is a motivating force behind a “what.” We can see evidence of love, just as we see evidence of the wind, but the wind itself cannot be directly seen. Love is a deep unseen value that, when it exists, is found in the heart, and once in the heart it radiates out toward the object of its attention. But what is love really?
Why do we love? We love because God first loved us:
“We LOVE Him, because he first LOVED us.”
—1 John 4:19
Why does God love? God loves because HE IS LOVE.
“GOD is LOVE.”
—1 John 4:8
In other words, love is not some external “thing” that God chose to “do” or “take upon” Himself. God did not step up to a merchants table, look at all the wares and say, I think I will have “love”, buying it and putting it on Himself, as something assumed and not essential.
God loves because that is WHO He IS. If love is a “what” then the only “what” that love can truly be in essence is: GOD. For us, to truly love is for us to come to know God:
“He who doesn’t LOVE doesn’t know God, for God is LOVE.”
—1 John 4:8
As Scripture says, “He who abides in LOVE abides in GOD”:
“We know and have believed the LOVE which God has for us. God is LOVE, and he who remains in LOVE remains in GOD, and God remains in him.”
—1 John 4:16
We learn the knowledge of Love when we learn the knowledge of GOD. When we are transformed into the likeness of God, Love is found in our hearts. If love is not selfish or self-seeking (as noted in 1 Corinthians 13), then we are not “loving” or “inside of love” without first experiencing a deep transformative intervention by God to remove our selfish nature and substitute His loving nature:
“Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, If any one may not be born from above, he is not able to see the reign of God”
All we who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God must learn to “put on” or “walk in” love.
“Above all these things, walk in LOVE, which is the bond of perfection.”
More on “what” and “why”…
A “what” is a state of being or an action or an expression that emanates from a “why.” I am what I am: but why? I do what I do: but why?
For example, in the case of a commitment, love may be “why” there is a commitment. But a commitment is not why there is love. Love is a value system, and in response to “value” we act (perhaps by making and sustaining a commitment).
Laying down one’s life for a friend is a “what” in response to a “why.”
“This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
The “why” is LOVE for a friend. The “what” is laying down one’s life for a friend BECAUSE of love.
This is illustrated in 1 Corinthians 13 where it is noted that one can give their body to the flames (the “what”) and still not have love (the “why”). In other words a person may have done something SEEMINGLY and OUTWARDLY loving, but inwardly it is possible that love was not the “why” that brought about the “what” of submitting to the flames.
“If I dole out all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but don’t have LOVE, it profits me nothing.”
—1 Corinthians 13:3
“Therefore show the proof of your LOVE…”
—2 Corinthians 8:24
It is possible to do loving “things” or “whats” without the true “why” of love. Love is God’s value that emanates from the depths of His being. He Himself is Love and His Love is the “why” of “whys” and the highest and perfect motivation. God Himself is the “why” for His love. God is Love:
“He who doesn’t LOVE doesn’t know God, for God is LOVE.”
—1 John 4:8
Love emanates from God’s being:
“Beloved, let us LOVE one another, for LOVE is of God; and everyone who LOVES is born of God, and knows God.”
—1 John 4:7
In the same way, if we love, if we really truly love, then it comes from our being, from who and what we are, by God’s grace. True love does not come from an intellectual decision to value a person, place or thing. We can certainly make an intellectual decision to value someone or something, but the question remains: do we really value it or is our purpose self-serving? God’s love is true love. He loves because He IS Love. His love is real and true and will last as long as He Himself lasts. His love does not come and go, strengthen or weaken or wavier, because He is Who He is there is no variation or shadow of turning with God.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, nor turning shadow.”
Though finite and changeable, human beings have values that, like God, emanate from our heart and our being. If we ask why our favorite color is “blue” or some such, we may not have a formulaic explanation for it. If we ask why we love our spouse, we may try to point to some physical or soulish attributes, but in reality, “we love because we love” and there is no intellectual explanation for loving someone throughout a lifetime. Unlike God, however, humans change and their values change. This is why we are “commanded to love”. Because without this commandment, we would never think to be like God: faithful and without variation.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you LOVE one another, just like I have LOVED you; that you also LOVE one another.”
We are at a loss to explain love except to say that we do love and we approve of and desire love in our lives. We are not satisfied to think that love is an arbitrary phenomenon or a passing chemical reaction in a random evolutionary timeline. It makes sense to us that love is purposeful and transcendent beyond mortal existence. This is because we are made in the image of Love and even though our love is not perfect as God’s love is perfect, we imitate His perfect and unfailing love because we are convinced, in the depths of our being, that the WAY OF LOVE is good. It is a great comfort to know Jesus God’s Anotinted Son as the Way of Love.
“But now faith, hope, and LOVE remain–these three. The greatest of these is LOVE.”
—1 Corinthians 13:13
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.”
“for the Father himself LOVES you, because you have LOVED me, and have believed that I came forth from God.”
“For God so LOVED the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
“One of the scribes came, and heard them questioning together. Knowing that he had answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the greatest of all?””
“Jesus answered, “The greatest is, ‘Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one: you shall LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.”
“The second is like this, ‘You shall LOVE your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.””
If you, or anyone you know, has been treated in an UNLOVING way, never doubt that it was NOT GOD who made that happen. God has intervened in human history to who demonstrate the WAY OF LOVE to the rebellious and sinful hearts of human beings.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Deep in the heart and being of God is LOVE for each and every one of us. LOVE for you. His Son Jesus, alive and in person, is His LOVE letter to you.
God has commanded LOVE. Yet, at the same time, God has given human beings the liberty to choose or reject the WAY of LOVE. There comes a time when the freedom to resist God, reject LOVE, and perpetuate selfish HATE in the world will end. And then God will have the last say in all the world. Never doubt it! Love will never end, but God will surely PUT AN END TO HATE!
“But I have this against you, that you left your first LOVE.”
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I am coming to you swiftly, and will move your lampstand out of its place, unless you repent.”
“How much worse punishment, do you think, will he be judged worthy of, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant with which he was sanctified an unholy thing, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”