The need to feel loved is a primary human emotional need. To get it, we’ll climb mountains, ford streams, sail across seas, traverse deserts, and endure incredible hardships. Without it, we tire out in the foothills, hate to get our feet wet, get seasick, make it only as far as the first oasis, and bail when things get dicey.
But, what is it? What do we love?
- I love hot dogs . . . cream-filled moon pies.
- I love my mother . . . Harry Potter . . . Mario Lanza.
- I love playing volleyball . . . kayaking . . . hiking . . . knitting.
How confusing. We can’t find a true definition by looking at what we love. Let’s take a look at actions done out of love. Maybe that will clear things up.
- I did it because I love her.
- The man having an affair calls it love.
- The preacher calls it sin.
- I did it because I love him.
- The wife of an alcoholic picks up the pieces after an episode, again…
- The psychologist calls it codependency.
- I love my child so much.
- The parents indulge all his wishes.
- The truant officer calls it irresponsible parenting.
Definitions of love are also fluid historically. Some of us can remember this as a new song, birthed during the same era as “Make love, not war.”
“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
And we pray that all unity will one day be restored:
And they’ll know we are Christian by our love…”
This song, written in the 1960s, was the Christians’ answer to the hippy free love era. It agrees with the good things from the “love package” of that period, but says there’s more to love than free-love: “People of the world, you will learn the true meaning of love through Christ and his followers.”
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.
If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.
1 John 4:7-21 (NLT)