For centuries, even the most skilled artisans of prose and poetry have been stymied in their attempts to define Love. Essays, odes, and epic tales of valiant honor and swooning maidens can’t begin to put a finger on such an esoteric notion as Love.
Listen to a teenager for fifteen minutes. First, talking to their girlfriend or boyfriend, you’ll hear, “I love you. I love you so much. I love you more. You hang up first. No, you. Okay, I love you.” “I love double cheeseburgers so much.” “I love Mr. Soandso, he’s the best teacher ever! No homework all weekend!” “I love that movie!” “I love this blanket, it’s so fuzzy.” “I love that eye shadow on you!” We know that none of that even comes close to what love really sounds like, but it is a series of feelings about different things, and they’re all positive. At least, from the teenager’s point of view.
Are we any different, though? We throw the word around without fully grasping its meaning in many of the same ways. We love our spouses, our kids, some peace and quiet and downtime. We love certain holidays, certain friends, certain days of the week more than others. We love a good, hot cup of coffee, a sense of accomplishment, and our pets. But doesn’t even that seem trite in comparison to what we were made for?
I’ve heard it said that love is a choice, not a feeling. I don’t think that’s completely true. I’ve heard it said that God is love. I suppose that comes somewhat closer, but still doesn’t capture exactly the heart of it. And, though I’m not going to come any closer to grasping a single definition than anyone else in history, I’d like to offer one more to the mix.
I think that Love is God. We are created in His image, yes? So we have a shadow of His feelings and notions impressed upon us. I don’t mean to say that we should worship Love. I mean to say that, when we feel Love – positive, overwhelming feelings of happiness, joy, peace, contentment, affection – that is God inside of us. In the same vein, when we choose Love – forgiving someone even when they don’t deserve it, helping someone when it’s taking up time we could be doing something for ourselves, giving to someone less fortunate than we are – that is also God inside of us.
The word “Love” occurs 686 times in the New International Version of the bible. The New Testament words of Jesus reflect Old Testament notions, as well – “Love your neighbor as yourself” comes from Leviticus 19:18, and “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength” is from Deuteronomy 6:5. These were what Jesus called the two great commandments – loving God, and loving others. “All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments,” He said in Matthew 22:40.
Love is the great cause. Love is what should get us out of bed in the morning, guide our day, and put us peacefully to sleep at night. It’s not a melody, a single line of notes to be played alone – it’s a magnificent harmony, in which we immerse ourselves into the lives of others and they immerse themselves into ours, for the sake of the Kingdom. Listening to one musical instrument for any length of time is tedious, but imagine a well-practiced orchestra playing your favorite song…