What is Love?

This is a question I have been asking myself a lot lately. Webster’s defines love as, noun, “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person,” or verb, “to feel great affection for (someone), to like or desire (something) very much: to take great pleasure in (something).”

I think these are great definitions, but I feel like there is so much more to the word than that. Let’s take a quick look at some scripture that talks about love…

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” -Ephesians 4:2

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” -1 Peter 4:8

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” -John 15:13

“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.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” -1 John 3:16-18

“Jesus replied:  ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” -Matthew 22:37-39

“If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” -1 Corinthians 13:1-7

Love all of these verses so much, but I think there is an underlying theme to all these verses that is a little hard to see.

When I was talking with someone very special to me the other day, we were talking about our personal character flaws. We were telling each other all the things about ourselves that usually get on people’s nerves and sometimes ruin our relationships with the people in our lives.

When I heard these things I thought to myself, “Those don’t sound too bad. I have dealt with worse in the past with other relationships,” and then I forgot about it completely until later that night, as I was sitting around and doing some prayers, and I felt like God spoke to me about what Love really was.

Now, I had been reading through the story of the crucifixion and had been thinking about that a lot and the Love that God has for all of us– so much so that He would send his only Son to die in the most horrific way anyone has ever been publicly executed in world history.

And then God spoke, and it felt like everything made sense. Here is what he said to me, “True love is the willingnessin which you will allow yourself to suffer for someone or something, and the follow through in that suffering if need be.” This is the moment when my jaw hit the floor.

Let’s break this down a little. “Love is the willingness” What does that mean? It doesn’t mean that something is going to happen; it just means that if something were to happen, you would be willing.

Now the second part, “…in which you will allow yourself to suffer for someone or something…” Now what does that mean? It means that you care about something so much that you are willing to give up something or someone, or allow yourself to go through some kind of pain for the person or thing that you love. It is easy to love someone when things are going well and there are no problems, but how easy is it to love someone or something when you need to give something up, be it possessions or characteristics or comfort for that person or thing? That is where the true colors come out.

Finally, there is one more part to the equation, “…and the follow through in that suffering if need be.”  This is probably the most difficult part to wrap your mind around. You are probably thinking to yourself, “I am willing to suffer, isn’t that enough?” Would it have been enough if God sent his Son, willing to die for us and then he chickened out at the last minute? I don’t think so. With love comes commitment, and that means sticking by them for better or worse, and especially in the worse.

After coming to this realization, all those verses began to make sense. They had meaning before, but they had much more powerful meaning now that I know that there is so much more to love, true love, than I thought before. There needs to be that willingness to suffer and then follow through when the time comes for true love to be truly love. Love doesn’t work without it. Without the willingness and follow through, that “love” is just lust or like or infatuation. Without it, that “love” is false.