As Valentine’s Day approaches, we are saturated with messages of love. It is the day we celebrate love. We love love. We worship love. We make movies about it. We write books on romance. We always read about how to get it, how to keep it, and how to demonstrate it. When asked to explain what love is, we falter.
One can go to the dictionary and get a dry descriptive definition of love. The dictionary describes it as an emotional attachment to people and things. The Webster’s dictionary I own devotes one-third of the page trying to define love. As exhaustively as the word is defined, it still comes up short in explaining love. Is love merely an emotion, or something greater? Is it merely an attachment to things and people?
Often, in our society, love is reduced to a romantic feeling. When asked about love, most people will quickly go into the romantic aspects of love. But, we also have strong emotional ties to familial relationships. Is love based off familiarity and acceptance? Does love require anything from us in return? Is love just a social emotion, or is it something more than that? Studies into human psychology show that love plays a more dramatic role in the lives of humans than merely a social one. Love is just as important as food and water.
In Russia’s Soviet era, the state run orphanages discovered that newborn babies needed love. While all their physical needs were taken care of, they still had a high mortality rate. Studies revealed that newborn babies had a strong need to be held, cuddled, talked to, and loved. Feeding them, changing them, and keeping them warm were not enough. Without close human contact, these babies slowly expired with no obvious physical cause. When we look closer to home, we find that our prisons are filled with people who were neglected and abused as children. Not surprisingly, most drug addicts come from childhoods where love was not in abundance. Many studies indicate that drug addiction is the brain thriving off drug-caused endorphins that are identical to those endorphins released by the warm fuzzy feelings of love.
The Bible is filled with verses on love. With over 300 verses on the matter, maybe one can find answers there? 1 Corinthians 13 offers some answers on love. It certainly doesn’t represent the standard view of the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of love embraced by American culture. Many times in the Bible, the act of love involves giving love, instead of passively receiving it. The Apostle Paul ends by telling us that love is greater than hope and faith. Of the many verses of love, none seem to relate to what we, in modern times, call love. If we are called to love our GOD with all our might, and to love others as we love ourselves, can we do so if our understanding of love is confused and incorrect?
When love is mentioned in the New Testament, it is used in a context that is different than how it is used in our culture. A lot of the verses talk about how we should conduct ourselves and how to treat the world. It doesn’t appear to be a selfish emotion as we are told to love strangers and enemies. We are taught how Jesus loves all of us, even though many in the world hate Him. Matthew 24 (and other verses) speaks of love growing cold and the church falling apart because of it. So, that brings up an obvious question: Do we know how to love?
The Bible warns us that a church is in danger when ‘love grows cold.’ Does the church represent GOD’s true love? With many churches showing little difference between themselves and the outside world, one wonders. Christians certainly don’t divorce less than the unchurched. Are the unsaved blown away with the gracious love the Lord speaks of when they enter our church? Maybe we should pray for wisdom on the matter? Maybe we should ask to see love, how our Father sees love? Maybe we could ask for our faith to be increased and learn more about love? Maybe those answered prayers will change everything?