What is love? In our American culture, we’ve been told and taught and trained that love is based upon feelings. We often think about that ‘high’ feeling when we ‘fall in love.’ Or maybe it’s ‘love at first sight.’
When I was a boy, I heard someone ask this question. ‘How will I know if I love the right girl? How will I know she is the one to marry?’
The answer given was, ‘When the time comes, you will know. And, boy, will you ever know because you will feel the love.’
If love is based upon emotions, what happens when my feelings change, and are not loving?
As humans, we all have emotional highs and lows. We have mountain top experiences, and we have deep emotional valleys. Our emotions (feelings) are constantly changing. We have ups and downs. If love is based upon feelings, then our love fluctuates with our moods.
Often in our culture the idea is …
- If you are attractive to me
- If you are nice to me
- If you meet my needs
- If you love me
- THEN I will love you
The above is the idea of getting something from someone else. Why give something if it doesn’t benefit me? If you don’t please me, then I have no love for you. The center is focused on ‘Self’.
Understand that powerful emotions ‘may’ accompany love, but the core part of love is not based on emotions.
A search in a dictionary for love brought up the following:
- An intense feeling of deep affection.
- A great interest and pleasure in something.
- Feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone.
- A warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion.
Notice, the above definitions are tilted to an emotion: Affectionate, passion, charity. This slanting comes from the Greek and western cultures.
That raises a question, what is love as found in the Bible? There are three Greek words.
Phileo (Brotherly love) = means "affectionate regard, friendship", usually "between equals."
Eros (Erotic love) = means "love, mostly of the sexual passion.
Agapao (Godly love) = means "love: esp. charity; the love of God for man and of man for God.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes the latter, Godly love:
- Does not envy
- Does not boast (does not parade itself)
- Is not proud (Is not puffed up)
- Is not rude to others
- Does not seek its own
- Is not provoked
- Does not think of evil
- Does not rejoice in iniquity
- Rejoices in truth
- Bears all things
- Believes all things
- Hopes all things
- Endures all things
All of these attributes come from God’s character. Notice: No emotional aspect is present in any of these. This love is always for the benefit of another, with no thought of self.
The Bible does not say God is ‘loving’. Rather it says God IS love. (John 4:8)
Too many folks, including Christians, get caught up in emotions and feelings, which constantly change. It’s not uncommon for people to ‘give up’ or ‘throw in the towel’ when difficulties arrive and things get tough. Or perhaps they turn away and forget that other person.
But God’s love does not change, there is no shadow of turning (James 1:17). His love for you and me is based upon a decision. Throughout the Bible, the term of love is most often explained as Loyal Love. This is a commitment demonstrated by action in the interest of another. This word indicates no reference to self-interest. It’s ALWAYS for another.
Whatever is short of God’s love (1 Corinthians 13) is not biblical love. Anything less will focus on, or point toward ‘self’. ‘Self’ is certainly not what God intended.
Parental-love and sibling-love, both (in the purest sense) focus on another person and are given for the benefit of the other.
In the ultimate definition, the root of love is a decision. That decision must hold firm and be unwavering.
What kind of love do you have?