What is Love? (And What Isn’t It?)

Culture — By on March 10, 2014 at 7:00 am

What is love? Especially if you’re in love, this can be a tricky question to answer since sometimes love seems either too confusing or too simplistic. 1 Corinthians says, “Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way…” One aspect of love is it stops focusing on the self and instead begins to seek another person’s well-being.

However, love is not only concerned with someone else’s good but also seeks the truth. 1 Corinthians also says, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” Thus truly seeking the good of another is to lead them away from evil and into truth which is why love is not always comfortable.

  1. Love isn’t just about uniformity.

To begin seeking someone else’s good, it’s important to view them as a separate person which might seem obvious, but a danger can be emphasizing uniformity at the expense of rich love.

When I was little, my Mom and I would play a game. We would walk holding hands and when we came to an obstacle, we would walk on either side but we would keep holding hands by lifting them over the object. When we did this, we would state a pairing such as: “peanut butter and jelly” or “salt and pepper.” I have no idea where this game started or why my Mom decided to play it with me, but the game’s concept recognizes objects with distinct individual characteristics also make a good pair.

In fact, I think this game is a great example of a bigger picture of love because it celebrates the unique differences that contribute to a good pairing. While the words of “jelly and jelly” could still be joined, this would be less complex and less rich. Just like in a relationship, preserving individuality won’t lead to uniformity but it will contribute to a richer relationship.

2. Love isn’t always comfortable

When I go out to eat, I’ll see couples sitting on the same side of the booth and usually, these couples are young and appear extremely in love. But I often wonder how in love they are. Not because sitting on the same side of the booth indicates a substantial lack of character or any other similar red flag but it is an image that fails to reflect the entire scope of love.

In conflict resolution, it’s better to face the same direction because facing the other person indicates confrontation, but sometimes confrontation can be beneficial, since it is ultimately more loving. Proverbs says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” True love isn’t afraid to introduce conflict in the relationship when it is for the benefit of the other person. While this may not be the easier action, the Bible communicates the value of confrontation.

It’s sort of like getting a flu shot. Nobody really wants a shot, but we know we need the shot for our ultimate well-being. It would be more comfortable to skip the shot or even for the nurse to check off the shot on the chart without giving it. Similarly, in a relationship it would be easier to go through the external motions of love and ignore an outstanding problem, at least for a time. But true love looks out for the best interest of another and is therefore willing to inflict short-term pain for the long-term benefit.

3. Love isn’t always miserable

While some confrontation may be healthy in a relationship, it also says in Proverbs, “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.” While it may be healthy to sit on opposite sides of the booth, it’s also unhealthy to kick each other under the table. Conflict should be introduced into a relationship with the intention of benefitting the other person by leading them into truth, not leading them into misery.

Since the goal of love is to seek the other person’s good, any action, including confrontation, should desire a growth in the ultimate truth which is Christ’s. And while this growth might bring pain, it will also bring joy. Hebrews 12:11 explains, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but it later yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

When considering what love is, it is easy to get caught up in an overly-simple understanding. Even the Bible’s commandment to love is simply stated, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” However, a simple phrasing of love is not equivalent to a shallow understanding and as Christians, it’s important to have a full grasp of love since this reflects Christ’s love. So with a better understanding of love, let us practice this understanding that we might love one another with a heart that is better caring and deeply truthful.


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  • scott spangenberg

    Love is an unconditional feeling that warms our hearts and makes a space in our heart. Sometimes it can be painful, and sometimes it can be confusing, but in the end it is a feeling that is like no other.

    Please be a good samaritan. Lend a helping hand to someone in need @ http://beagoodsamaritan.blogspot.com

  • Darwin E. Stanton

    Love is all about loving others in the same way we love ourself. Loving our self means we understand our mistakes, our wrongs, or behavior. When we truely get that, love becomes unconditional to to others. Thanks for the article.