It seems people everywhere have an inborn desire and need to love and to be loved. When we see conflicts between persons and nations, we sense that what the world needs is love. Whatever love is, we believe it will bring people together in peace and harmony. We know love exists because we feel it; we find ourselves wanting to experience it, and we often feel the pain of not loving others as we should. Many want love, but don’t know how to get it. For some reason, love often escapes us.Lots of definitions of love have been given by lots of people. For many people, love is about feelings. They define love as a warm sort of feeling, a mysterious feeling of being attracted to someone, of wanting to hang out with that person, a feeling of closeness to someone. This feeling is one of happiness and excitement, one that leads toward various expressions of closeness. Persons interpret these feelings and tangible expressions as being in love. But love must be more than romantic feelings. Feelings can change; they come and go. A person can fall out of love as easily as they fell into love.Another way people define love is to equate love with tolerance. Tolerance has been redefined today to mean an unconditional acceptance of another without any form of judgment or criticism about their beliefs, lifestyle, or behaviors. Not to accept something about another, they say, is judgmental and not loving. This definition of love means to have an unconditional acceptance of the other person, just as they are. There is some truth to that, but should people really tolerate everything? Some things ought not to be tolerated. For example, should one tolerate a person who is verbally or physically abusive?
A popular journalist and author said in one of her writings, “People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake.” This definition of love involves accepting the truth about yourself so you can become a better person. When I asked my wife what love was, she said, “Love is a deep desire to do what is best for people. Love is to serve others for their betterment.” My wife, at times, with her words, has “smacked me awake” to help make me a better person. Of course, you have to listen. A marriage counselor wrote that if couples would believe each other when criticisms are made, and seek to correct their behavior instead of justifying and defending themselves, he would have a lot fewer people coming to him for counseling.
Here are some pretty good definitions of love. Love does not lock people out, but love makes room in the heart for one another. Love values people, placing their importance above all material objects. Love grows in acceptance and trust. In being loved, no one feels alone or is alone. Being loved creates within us a sense of safety, peace, and joy. Love, true love, will not give up when things get hard, but will fight for the good it promises.
A few friends were talking about the subject of food. One person made a remark that the additives that go into our food these days are not good for our health. Another agreed that these preservatives in our food are not good for us. One of the ladies in the group disagreed. “I’m getting older”, she said, “and I need all the preservatives I can get.” This comment brought laughter. Hearing this, I thought to myself, “Actually, the greatest preservative for all of life is love; God’s love.”
The Bible tells us God is love (1 John 4:8). God’s love is defined by who he is. One of the best definitions of God’s love is seen in the person of Jesus, the Son of God. The Bible says Jesus is the exact representation of God (Hebrews 1:3), and Jesus said that to see him is to see God the Father (John 14:9). Jesus knew that the Father loved him, and Jesus was able to love because he had the love of the Father in himself. Therefore, when we see how Jesus loves people, we are witnessing the definition of God’s love. Jesus showed us and taught us what God’s love is like. He did this by meeting people’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs; healing people, teaching God’s truth to them (which many did not like), listening to them, encouraging them, accepting them, and forgiving them. As Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Laying down one’s life for another is not primarily based on human feelings that can so easily come and go, or on one’s tolerance, or on some condition that must be fulfilled. Rather, love is something you do because, being loved by God, you are becoming a loving person, and there are the needs of another to be met.
When we are loved by God, and God is the King of our life, we want to learn more and more about love. Many years ago, during the course of our marriage, my wife commented that our lives were going in two different directions. I could have just kept going my own way and ignored my wife’s feelings of being alone in our relationship. But what if my wife and I are both in a right relationship with God and we both want to work at living our daily lives based on what God says? I read this statement from God in the Bible: “Husbands, love your wife as Jesus loved the church and gave up his life for her.” I thought, “Help me, Lord, I need to learn how to love like you love.” Having a serious relationship with God has helped both of us to stay committed to one another and to learn from God what his love is all about. Unfortunately, self-centeredness oftentimes makes love difficult, and so, God being our helper, we never stop learning, not only how to love each other, but how to love the people that make up this world in which we live.