What is love?

When most people hear the word love, two things usually come to mind: a feeling, or physical intimacy. However, love is more than a feeling, it's a decision, and a lot of physical intimacy is a decision rooted in selfish desire, which is the opposite of love.

Love is when you place a value on something.

Starting with this definition, we can see why it's possible to love pizza, and love your mom. Both hold a place of value in your life, but different levels of value. when you decide that something is valuable enough that you desire it, your emotions enable you to have feelings centered upon the the thing that you value. Of course, it's worth noting that we are often tempted to value things that are not good, with negative emotions that coincide. For example: If you choose revenge, you've made this decision because you believe that getting even holds some value for you, therefore, you love revenge and hate your neighbor - and, of course, you are left to deal with emotions like anger, frustration and fear.

"...light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light..."(John 3:19-20)

We are told that:

"God is Love" (1 Jn 4:7)

This is because He is the complete sum and source of everything in existence that has value, and nothing would have value without Him! By understanding that love is a choice, we can also see how it is possible to obey this command from the Lord:

"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6:27-28)

Warm fuzzy feelings are not necessary, only the understanding that all humans are made in the image of God for a good purpose (Gen 1:27), and therefore have intrinsic value, regardless of how much work is needed to remove their flaws. This attitude explains why God has been persistent in His mission to rehabilitate mankind:

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8)

Love is not selfish, it is sacrificial by it's very nature (1 Cor 13:4-7), because if something is valuable, it is worth making a sacrifice for.

"There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." (Jn 15:13)

There is a very touching display of this sacrificial attitude in the Bible, when Jacob meets Rachel, and is willing to pay any price to have her as his wife:

"So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her." (Gen 29:20)

This is why it is a fallacy for any person to choose divorce, based on the idea that they no longer love their spouse. Marriage is an oath taken between two people, giving themselves to the other, for life. This oath was not a feeling, it was a decision, and this decision was based on the idea that something about that other person was valuable enough to commit the rest of their life to. That commitment is not supposed to change just because a person's feelings change. God has proven the magnitude of His love, by the magnitude of His sacrifice.

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ ..." (Eph 2:4-5)
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son..." (Jn 3:16)

Receiving God's love empowers humans to love back.

"We love because he first loved us." (1 Jn 4:19)

And, God's love is expected to serve as an example for human relationships.

"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." (1 John 3:16)

God created mankind for relationships, with Him first, and then other humans, therefore, there is an expectation that we are to live our life in love (1 Cor 16:14). When Jesus was asked to define the most important law of God, this is what He said:

"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 and greatest commandment, and the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:30, Matt 22:39)

Obviously, love is foundational to the purpose for mankind's existence. In fact, the only kind of relationship that God recognizes, the only salvation that is offered, and the only hope that anyone has for Heaven, is in a personal love relationship with Jesus Christ.

"Whoever loves God is known by God." (1 Cor 8:3)

The law of God is fulfilled by love, because with perfect love, you would never make choices that grieve God or harm others. Those who work at religion, but have no love for God, completely misunderstand what God wants. And, those who say that they love others, but continue to be selfish and unsacrificing, are deceived.

"Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Rom 13:10)

Love has to be sincere or it isn't love, even if some moments of honesty are uncomfortable. Love always looks out for the interest of the other, but occasionally, that requires placing a demand on people for their own good. When someone needs intervention, it should always be as gentle as possible, but as forceful as necessary. Nowhere does 'tough love' play out more regularly than in the parent/child relationship, and it is no different between our Heavenly Father and His earthly children.

"...do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he corrects you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves... God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? ...God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (Heb 12:5-11)

The obvious way in which we show our love to God is by being obedient to Him, and Jesus said it plainly:

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15)

It's easy to see what's in a person's heart by watching how their attitude plays out when they interact with others, especially around strangers. A person's words may lie, but their actions will always tell the truth!

"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit." (Luke 6:43)

Those who belong to Jesus Christ have great reason to celebrate, because the love and loyalty in our relationship with God goes both ways, and we can expect the love of Christ to bring about good results for us in all situations.

"God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (1 Cor 2:9)

God's love is unfailing and it assures us of unimaginable goodness, now and forever!

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Cor 2:9)