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What is Love?

By Gerry Mellors, Jubilee Church Wirral

The dictionary definition (Dictionary.com) of love is ‘a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person’.

Many people have tried to give their own answer to this question.  In songs and movies the answer will often be a feeling related to romantic love with one of the best selling songs about it, ‘Love is all around’ by Wet Wet Wet saying: ‘I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes, love that’s all around me, and so the feeling grows’.

My parents had some cartoons from the 70’s which all started ‘Love is…..’ with a whole range of funny and sweet answers – although some feel slightly dated now. Some related to this feeling of affection, but others go some way to better answering the question as they were in part about putting love into action:

Love Is.. cartoons by New Zealand cartoonist Kim Casali  in the 1960s

I remember hearing a sermon as a teenager in which it was said love is an action, not a feeling.

I’d never really thought about that before, it was a genuine revelation to me, I was still very caught up in the idea of romance.

I was so familiar with the songs and films that spoke of love only as an emotion.

But as it was explained I realised how true it was. Yes God loves us with strong affection and feels very lovingly towards us, but His love is so much more than that. It’s sending His Son to die in our place – and in seeing His Son die, God can’t have felt only feelings of affection for us, He also felt feelings of pain….watching his son die was the ultimate act of love.

The Urban Dictionary (urbandictionary.com – definitions created by its users) has definitions for love including ‘the act of caring and giving for someone else’ and ‘a choice of devotion’ which seem much more realistic meanings.

Jesus himself gives us a very clear answer about what love is in John 15:13:

‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’

To give your life for another is the ultimate act of love, the very thing that Jesus would go on to do. Hearing this scripture always reminds me of Remembrance Day and the soldiers who gave their lives in war and the words ‘They died that we might live’ – the very thing Jesus did for us.

I’ve been reading a book called ‘The Road Less Travelled’, which isn’t overtly a Christian book, but it is full of wisdom.

The writer, Scott Peck, states: ‘Real love often occurs in a context in which the feeling of love is lacking, when we act lovingly despite the fact we don’t feel lovingly.’

He goes on to talk about how in marriage, often real love starts when the ‘honeymoon’ feeling ends, and people don’t feel like they’re ‘in love’ anymore, as the experience of falling in love is invariably temporary.

Not that we necessarily stop loving the person, but the feeling of ecstatic lovingness that characterises the experience of falling in love always passes. 

Peck also says: ‘I conclude that the desire to love is not itself love. Love is as love does. Love is an act of will – namely both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.’

In the media people may make judgements about how much couples love each other based on grand gestures – purchases of expensive items etc, and they can be applauded for such things.

I suspect real love very often goes unnoticed as it isn’t so glamorous – but there’ll be people we know, members of our church who are faithfully demonstrating this self-sacrificing love, not maybe giving their life physically like a soldier, but giving up the life they might desire to love someone who has need of their love.

One example is the person who cares daily for their spouse who is struggling with physical ill health or dementia, who stays at home, missing out on their usual activities – seeing friends, eating out, even attending church – for the sake of their partner. Sacrificing all their desires to meet their partner’s needs. For them there is often no ‘me time’ – and they don’t complain about it, they just get on with it because that’s what real love is.

Really loving someone can sometimes be a very hard choice to make and to keep making, but this is the kind of love we as Christians are called to. And when we do, we are being like Jesus as ‘God is love’:

‘God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him’ (1 John 4:16).

                                      

    

Gerry Mellors and Arlo Mellors of Jubilee Church Wirral

Gerry Mellors of Jubilee Church Wirral with her husband Arlo

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