Humankind has been debating and defining this word love for as long as we have been in existence. Love is the topic of and the inspiration for our art, our literature, our music, our movies – everything revolves around man’s quest for love. From country western songs to Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals to rock & roll, it is all about love.
We long to find love, to experience love, to hold onto love. We dedicate our lives to pursuing love, understanding it, defining it, acquiring it, but not so much to giving it away – that would be too costly.
Just what is love, anyway? Is it that elusive entity that makes the world go round? Is it really true that love is all you need? Have I, or have you, dear reader, spent your life looking for love in all the wrong places? Can I even say for sure that I know what love is?
Recently, I have been seeing these words “love is love” on signs and posters and such. In fact, lately these words seem to be everywhere I look. I never noticed them before but now they are getting my attention. Still, I find those words confusing if not downright nonsensical. You see, in grade school English it was drilled into us when doing our vocabulary homework that you can’t use the word you are attempting to define in the definition of said word.
So if I don’t know what love is, telling me that love is love, doesn’t enlighten me or further my understanding of the word all that much. Fortunately, God’s word has a lot to say about love. In fact, there is a whole chapter in 1 Corinthians called the love chapter (that would be chapter 13) which describes love in the following words,
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
These words about love paint a picture of what love looks like by what love does and doesn’t do. These words describe love so well that I would be able to recognize love if I saw her in action and to recognize a love impostor by their actions as well. This would certainly come in handy in my quest for love, this ability to to tell the real thing from the impostors.
I will recognize love by its actions. Because at its core, love is a verb, not a noun. Love is an action more than a feeling. Love is both, but it is the actions of love which define her, release her power and give her life. Love’s actions reveal her true character and expose all pretenders. Actions are the way love is lived out in this world.
Love is defined in John 15:13 in this way,
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
Then we read in John 3:16,
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
So we see the definition of love includes the action of giving, even the giving up of one’s life. Love is an action. In Ephesians 5:25 we read,
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her . . .”
In Romans 13:10 I find love further defined in this way,
“Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
I love that explanation. (oops, that is the feeling I’m referring to in that statement) How often do I say I love this or that? I have to confess – pretty often and the list is long (ice cream, kittens, sunsets, campfires . . . ) but am I living out the actions of love or still just searching for the feeling that we have labeled love?
Love does no harm – oh if I could live that way. Never hurting anyone with my words or my deeds because love does no harm. That should easily weed out all the pretenders, who profess their love to those around them but with their actions tell a different story.
Love is the fulfillment of the law. And what is the law? The two greatest commandments we are told, are to love God above all else and to love others as yourself. In Matthew 22:36-39 I find this confirmed,
” ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ 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.’ ”
This kind of love requires action on my part. This loving God and loving my neighbor is hard work. It is more than a feeling expressed by an emoji. The kind of loving Jesus was talking about will be time consuming and costly. But to this we are called.
Jesus made clear this connection between love and action in John 14:21 & 23 when He said,
“Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. . . . If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching.”
My love for my Heavenly Father is lived out in my actions of obedience to His teachings, in my following where He leads and in my doing things His way, not mine. There is a story in Luke of a woman who showed her love for Jesus by her actions, though she was criticized greatly for what she did. This is how it happened.
While Jesus was having dinner at the house of a prominent religious leader, a woman of questionable character entered and began washing Jesus’s feet. His high class host took issue with the woman’s actions and Jesus’s response is worth noting –
“Then He (Jesus) turned toward the woman and said to Simon, (the one who thought he was the one who loved Jesus because he was religious) ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for My feet, but she wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give Me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing My feet. You did not put oil on My head, but she has poured perfume on My feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.’ ” (Luke 7:44-47)
Did you catch that? This woman loved much according to Jesus. It wasn’t a feeling, it was all action. She cried, she wiped, she kissed, she poured perfume on Jesus feet, something that cost her dearly as perfume was very expensive but she spared no expense – by her actions she loved much.
What is love? Is it more than the fleeting feelings of a romantic fairytale? Could love be an act of kindness in the face of cruelty? Could it be the parent who doesn’t give up on a child, no matter what? Could it be gentle words in response to harsh ones? Could it be sticking with a friend through tough times? Could it be loving the unlovable? That’s what God does, you know. Yes, He loved us while we were still sinners. God loves us even when we are unlovable. What is love?
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:10-11)
what is love? love is a myriad of actions chosen and taken every moment of every day that can add up to a lifetime of love – love is all those things in 1 Corinthians – patient, kind, long suffering, trusting, hopeful, persevering, faithful . . .
love is self-giving, compassionate and courageous – love really is a many splendored thing . . .
love was never more visible than that day on Calvary when love hung on a cross, dying for a world that would otherwise die, love – the ultimate sacrifice, love – the gift of God.
what is love? “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
sincerely, Grace Day