What Is Love?

What is love? This is and infinitely important question. To the world, love is a self-focused thing. According to literature, to Hollywood, to popular magazines, love is depicted as a very pleasant, or powerfully intense, physical or emotional “feeling” that lasts only as long as it serves my physical and emotional desires. The love that John writes about here has nothing to do with the world’s definitions of love. The love spoken of in this passage is the revealed infinite nature of God. John gives us the answer to our question, “What is love?” “GOD IS LOVE.” (verse 8”)

This very nature of God was revealed to us in Jesus Christ. God loved us so greatly that he gave himself to us in his Son, so that we could share in his love and have eternal life. To believe in God, therefore, is to believe that love is completely selfless, generous, merciful and authentic. To paraphrase Paul’s words in his letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13, this love that is from God is completely selfless and other oriented. It is, always patient, kind, never jealous. It does not seek its own interests, and it never fails. Why? Because this is the nature of God. When we were baptised in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we became his children. When we know God and show this kind of love toward one another we show ourselves to be children of God, for we are expressing his very being in our own thoughts, words and deeds.

This, then, is the love that we strive to live in accord with as Christians. God, in giving himself to us, has given us his very being and nature, which is love. The more we come to know him, the more we will love him. The more we know and love him, the more we will be able to love one another as he loved us. Indeed, the outward proof that we know God is that we love one another as he loved us. When we love one another in this way, God is present, yes, even visible, in all that we say and do. This, then, is the only sure means for making the world more loving, just, and merciful. True justice and mercy does not come through human laws. Rather, it comes through our love for one another. Where there is no love God is not present. Where God is not present there can be no healing, no forgiveness, no mercy.

It is clear how desperately the world needs this love that is from God. As Christians, then, we are to be the vanguard, the examples of this love in the midst of this suffering world that does not know God. By loving one another as he loved us we can make God known to those who, in their hunger, desperately seek for this love that is from God. Let us, therefore, come to know God more intimately in our own lives, through greater attention to prayer, scripture reading, and attendance at church. To know him is to love him. To love him is to bring that love alive in the world through our love for one another in our homes, our neighborhoods, our churches, and with all those we encounter in the course of our daily lives.

Lord, it is you that we seek in the depths of our hearts and souls. Fill us with your love so completely that we will overflow with it toward those closest to us, and toward all others that we meet throughout our day. Let our growing knowledge and love of you be so real and genuine that it draws others to you. We pray this in your name, Jesus. Amen!

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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.