February is the month, where we make a big deal out of love, especially here in Loveland, Colorado. The English word love is not well defined. You can come up with several definitions of love depending on the context. I have found one definition that I think does a fair job of covering what it means to love. I think it is a good definition.
“Love is a commitment you make to act in someone else’s best interest. True love can only be known by the actions that it prompts.” (“God Space”, by Doug Pollock, p. 92)
Many think that love is a feeling. I would disagree. Love is not a feeling though feelings are many times connected with love. Love is altruistic. It puts the other person needs first.
A great description of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+13&version=ESV)
The Greek word for love in this passage is agape. It is a selfless unconditional love. (Greek has many words that can be translated as love.) It is the primary word for love in the Bible. It is the love that God has shown us. Romans 5:8 says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This passage shows that God’s love is tangible, an action that is directed toward each one of us. It is also unconditional. We did not have to get our act together. We were “still sinners”. And it is a sacrificial love that cost Jesus his life.
Look back at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. Replace the word love (and it) with Jesus or God, and read it again. That describes Jesus. It is who he is. You can replace love with your name instead, and see how well you do. I know that I fail many times at these things. I tend to be selfish and not selfless. Many times it has been my needs and my happiness that have driven my love actions. My love has not been pure as it should be. Thank God that he is not like me. He loves us totally with that selfless unconditional agape love. Though you can not always count on me, you can count on God. His love is there for you. He always desires the best for you.
5 thoughts on “What is love?”
Sounds good, Paul. Of course, always putting that agape love fully into practice on a consistent basis is where the real challenge lies, given that we’re always wrestling against our naturally self-centered, sinful selves. Even the Apostle Paul complained about this regarding himself, when he wrote in Romans 7:14-15, 18-25:
“… I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. … For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”
The supreme challenge is to become ever more like Christ, and ultimately to “be perfect, even as our Father in Heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48). What an impossibly high bar that is … in our own strength. In fact, it’s a such a lofty goal that it’s probably safe to say that none of us will ever completely reach it in this life, especially given what the Apostle Paul wrote about himself — a man who was the author of 2/3 of the New Testament, a founder of churches who worked harder than all the other apostles (1 Cor. 15:10), and a martyr. Nonetheless, we still have Jesus’s command to become perfect. So how do we do that?
Prayer and time in the Word are the two most frequently-recommended tools in our spiritual tool belt. And the Apostle Paul advised us to put on the full armor of Christ in Eph. 6:10-18. But what else? What about Christian meditation? What about fasting? Has anyone engaged in these disciplines to any great extent? If so, can anyone point to any specific results? Are there other disciplines people have found helpful? Some years back, Richard Foster wrote, “Celebration of Discipline”. Does anyone have any comments about this book?
I read “Celebration of Discipline” many years ago. It was a good read, and the book gives a good overview of many spiritual disciplines. That is what I remember. It is interesting that you brought up that book. A few weeks ago, a friend said that he was rereading the book. It got me thinking maybe I should too, and here you are mentioning the book. I don’t remember if it is in the book, but practicing the presence of God is something that is not as easy as it sounds but is something I have been trying to do on and off for many years. (Practicing the presence of God is reminding yourself that God is here with you always and you can talk to him. It is a way to pray unceasingly.)
Also I have fasted one meal (lunch) on Fridays during Lent for many years. When I feel a hunger pain or a desire to eat, I remind myself that Jesus came to earth to suffer and to die for us. I then say a prayer thanking Jesus for his sacrifice. It is a good way for me to refocus.