What is Love?
It's mid February, so love is in the air. And on TV. And the radio. And the internet. And flower shops. And card shops. There's no escaping it!
What exactly is love? Is it just a feeling? How does love look? I'm not sure our society really knows.
It is commonly said that God is love, and that's certainly true. It is also commonly misunderstood. It is not that God is nothing but love. God posses a great many characteristics, love being one of them. The concept of God being all loving (or omnibenevolent, to put my seminary degree to use) simply means God demonstrates love in it's greatest form and to its fullest extent. If we really want to understand real love, we need to get to know God.
Here are a few verses dealing with love:
1 John 3:16 says, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters." Jesus demonstrated love by laying down his life for us, and we are called to do the same. Love here isn't a feeling, it's a choice. Jesus chose to lay down his life, and we must similarly choose to love, regardless of how we feel.
Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God loved us while we were undeserving of his love, not that we can ever deserve it. If God can love us at our worst, we must love others at their worst. God's love doesn't require him to overlook our shortcomings. Rather, it motivates him to act to make it possible for us to become what we were created to be. If we love like God, we won't overlook people's faults. Instead, we must love people in spit of their faults, and loving help them to overcome them. (See Matthew 7) Of course this principle can be quite complicated in practice, but the Bible never claims following God would be easy!
It's difficult to talk about love without referencing the "love chapter" of the Bible, so I'll conclude with the beginning of 1 Corinthians 13:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.