It’s not as easy to define love as to define a smile. Love, in the English language, has so many different meanings.
In Christianity the basic commandments are to love God and to love one’s neighbour as oneself. But some object: “How can an emotion, a feeling be commanded?” Love comes unbidden and seldom can be controlled. It is not subject to our wills.
So we need to thinks of the different meanings of love. We love our children, our wives, husbands, partners; we love chocolates, holidays, playing football; children love staying up late at night, others love sleeping late on rest days. There is passionate love, filial and brotherly love, compassionate love; so love can be an emotional feeling but it can also be a fixed and determined ordering of our activities.
While there is a song about love making the world go round, another said in fun: “Love means nothing. in Tennis.”
Love certainly gives added meaning to our lives. Without love, we can be lonely and depressed and feel life is just not worth living.
We are commanded to ‘love our neighbour.’ When one person asked him for a definition of neighbour, Jesus told a story about a man who was assaulted and left for dead, but who was helped at considerable cost, but a traditional enemy. So in the command to love our neighbour, there should be no distinction, no preferences, but all are included. Notice we are not commanded to like our neighbour.
The most important and basic meaning of love in the Christian tradition, the love that is commanded, is an unconditional kindness and caring regardless of circumstance. Or as Wikipedia states: love is the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.
I can’t do better than quote Paul’s definition of love in his first letter to the Corinthians in the Bible. I quote from a modern paraphrase in ‘The Message” by Eugene Peterson:
‘Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of other, doesn’t revel when other grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.’ (I Corinthians 13: 4-8)
Love is often easier said than done.
On the lighter side, I well remember a picture drawn of a lover passionately declaring his love for his beloved. On his knees he protested: “My love for you is eternal. I will cross swollen rivers and climb high mountains to see you.” He then added: “I’ll see you again on Saturday, if it isn’t raining!”
A physician once said: "The best medicine for humans is love." His patient asked, "What if it doesn't work?" He smiled and said: "Increase the dose."
Rev. Alan Stuart Ex missionary to Korea, Retired Minister, UCA
(02) 8876 1870