WHAT IS LOVE.
Period. Not a question mark in that title. We owe the invention of the question mark to Charlemagne and his renaissance of Christian learning which helped to create the European civilization we’ve inherited (and perhaps squandered). Charlemagne notwithstanding, I choose a period after “LOVE”)
On this day, a Saturday, Christendom keeps in mind that one Saturday long ago when Love Itself was defeated. It was mocked, ridiculed, demonized, crucified, done away with – finally! – then shut away in a tomb – boom! – out of sight forever! It seemed that Love had been conquered.
Friday evening, Saturday, into the wee hours of Sunday morning, three calendar days; it certainly seemed like a defeat for the Gospel. A dark time for the followers of Jesus in which all that “religion talk” from God’s chosen people ended.
That Man, that Son of Man, had talked of love between God and man, God’s love to man through man, and an eternity of Love, loving and being loved.
Humans have always been capable of the motivating factors which we’ve called “love”: parental love, filial love, friendship love, spouse love — the love we have for a certain kind of pizza!! Apart from God, the source of Love, we can get quite distracted with loves of various kinds.
Should I give the four Greek categories? Storge, Eros, Phileo . . .
(Beware: the “modern” lists of “Greek” love using six words from popular culture or seven words from psychologists who seem to be trapped in the perspective of 20th century agendas. They elevate minor subcategories into unwarranted importance and are certainly not time-tested throughout human experience.)
. . . And the fourth: Agape, which human beings do not seem to be capable of – on their own, on their own strength, on their own willpower.
We need no instruction in the first three categories. Biological forces, affections fondnesses, familiarities make these first three loves common and natural to us.
They can be very powerful, of course, overwhelming us sometimes.
I’ve just finished another book by Michael D . O’Brien, the last in his series which speculates whether our current events and personalities might indicate the formation of the last one-world governance with the antichrist at its head. It’s a deeply thoughtful book – I’m going to have to read it again and take notes this time! – but I was struck by his definition of that Agape love:
Dr. Abbas (the blind Christian Arab) paused to clear his throat. He then resumed his story: What is love, . . . ? Do we not love most what is best in another but lacking in ourselves? to see in someone else what we should be? That is a part of it.
Another part is to have one’s eyes opened to the gift that each person is. Subtract him from existence and the world is poorer. When he is present, the world is richer – and full of wonder, really, if we can sustain that vision. I’ve had glimpses of it . . . (from Elijah in Jerusalem)
Yes, this thought from Dr. Abbas is only a glimpse. He knows he’s seen only a glimpse of Love. Love from the Christian definition is to desire the best and highest good for another – and to be always ready to act on it.
It is a deep-seated self-sacrificing commitment to that other person. “No greater love has a man than to lay down his life for another.”
(“It is a far, far better thing . . . than I have ever done.”) —
And: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church.” How did Christ love the church? He died for it.
To step up and die for the good of another? Yikes! Occasional heroic acts of self-sacrifice to save the life of another occurs, of course, but it is especially Christian to die for the good of the other person’s eternal soul.
Or to live for the good of the other person’s eternal soul. Most of us are not required to prove our love by our deaths; but we’re required to live with that kind of love. This kind of original Christianity is not for half-hearted sissies, but it is rather the defining characteristic of a true follower of Christ.
Nor are we capable of it without that gift of Love being first given to us. The Bible puts it simply: “God is love.” God created out of Love. God loves His creation. Dr. Abbas had a glimpse of this: “. . . to have one’s eyes opened to the gift that each one is.” God opens our eyes; he gives, we receive.
Perhaps the Bible, Charles Dickens, and Dr. Abbas can say it better than I can, but I do try to frequently explain it to my classes this way: God is. God is love. Before the universe was created, He thought you up. He liked the idea of you! And then, after He created the universe, he created you and put you down into the best and most optimal time and place so that you’d be able to find your way back to Him, and to His love.
Hold Him. Hold Him in your heart.
You love God back, and you love all the human beings that He loves, and hold each one in your heart so that you can act, with sacrificial love, for their welfare, here and now.