What Is Love?

Think about all the songs that have been written about love. You could go on and on naming song after song that is about the subject. Love, it seems, has been the favored muse of many a poet from ancient times through modernity. But, what is love (baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more. When someone asks that question it is impossible for my mind not to repeat those words)?  Ask anyone what love is, and odds are you will get a series of different answers.

We have butchered the word to such a point that our culture barely recognizes it. Love has become a thirty minute kissing show (or worse) on network television. Love has been reduced to its baser biological function. Love has become a quest to serve self. Love has become a mere convenience.

So again, what exactly is love? Well, actually, it is a great many things, and it is the antithesis of a great many things. In I Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul describes pointedly what love is, along with what it is not. He constructs a vivid picture as to what the word means. The question is, how often do we think of love in the terms that he defines it? Sure, we have heard I Corinthians 13 read at a couple dozen weddings and we just think it to be a wonderful sentiment,  then we eat some cake, throw some rice (do they still throw rice?), and go home.

So what if we take a look at I Corinthians 13, and see if we can do some reconstructive surgery on what it means to love as it relates to our marriages? For the next several weeks we will take one of Paul’s descriptors  each week and elaborate on it.

Before we jump into Paul’s multifaceted definition of what love is, for today, let’s just notice how he lays the foundation first.

If I speak human or angelic languages
but do not have love,
I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

 If I have the gift of prophecy
and understand all mysteries
and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith
so that I can move mountains
but do not have love, I am nothing.

 And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor,
and if I give my body in order to boast
but do not have love, I gain nothing.

First, we should notice that talk is cheap. We might tell our spouse nice things, and how much we love them (which we should), but it doesn’t stop there. Love is active. When we love our spouse we do things for them. Our actions provide evidence that our words are true. If we say we love our spouse, but our lives don’t reflect that, then we are simply making noise.

Second, we may know exactly how to love our spouse and meet their needs, but it mustn’t stop there. Knowing is not the same as doing, is it? We may know our partner inside and out. We may know their likes, disgusts, passions, and dreams, but if we do not follow through in showing them that we love them the knowledge really does nothing.

Last, what are our motivations? Do we do things for our spouse in order to get? Are we serving them in order to get them to do something for us? That isn’t love. That is manipulation! Love serves because it solely seeks to bring benefit to the object of its affection. Love is not an exercise in self gratification. It is an exercise in denying the self.

In these few verses leading up to defining what love is, Paul clues us into two very important details. When it comes to love, application is everything. It isn’t enough to say we love someone or know how to love someone. We have to turn our words into actions. We also must know that love is about serving. There we have it. Love is about, action and service.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.


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