What Does It REALLY Mean To Love?

This is a challenging passage to us. Our understanding of it turns on our understanding of what love is. We are told, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” (verse 15) What does this mean?

We have so overused the word “love” in our time that it has lost much of its real meaning for us. How can we say, “I love you,” to our beloved with any real meaning if, at the same time, we say things like: “I love my car, or “I love pizza,” or “I love having money?” The kind of love that John is talking about here is very different. Indeed, there is no comparison.

To “love” the things of the world is dangerous to our souls. Yes, the world is God’s creation, but the world, and all the things in it will pass away. Love of the world, then, is fragile, impermanent, and, in the end, unfulfilling. To love the things of the world is to be disappointed. For they have nothing in them that is eternal. To love the things of the world is to make idols out of them and the things of the world cannot fulfill what the heart naturally desires. An inordinate love for the things of the world, as John tells us, “comes not from the Father, but from the world.” (verse 16)

The love that John is talking about here can only be experienced in a shared relationship between infinite beings, that is, God, and our human souls. John challenges us even further with an unusual perspective on this love when he says in our passage for today, “but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” The will of God is love. The will of the beloved is to love in return. To submit to the will of the One who is love, is to know the true meaning of freedom. For, to love is to be self-giving, infinitely generous, forgiving, merciful, compassionate and kind. This, then, is the kind of love that we are to have for one another. This infinite desire is too great to be given to the things of the world. When we love another, it is not the flesh that we love, but the eternal soul that we are coming to know. And God is in that love. For, “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” (1 John 4:16) This love, then, is the source of our lives, our forgiveness, and our salvation. It is this love, then, that nurtures and gives meaning and purpose to our human and our eternal lives.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.