What is Love?

By: Angelica Anderson

Love may be a global phenomenon, but do we truly have an understanding of it? 

Ah, the answer to one of the world's most universal questions. If only, defining it was so easy. I am 20, and while I would say I have a good grasp on the topic, I still have a lifetime to discover the answer. However, it is just as complex and confusing as many other mysteries this life has us puzzled about. One thing's for sure though, is that the answer seems to change, grow, and confuse me more over time.  

Love can be both a blessing and a burden; and it isn’t as Hollywood has created it to be. While it can be this beautiful moment in time, filled with passion, security, and hope for the future, it doesn’t just materialize on a whim. Love is hard; it takes work, and it is a practice, many of us fail at. To me, it has lost some meaning in the way we use it now. I love pizza but I also love my mom, and they don't stem from the same level of admiration. We use it so casually in conversation, but how much meaning, and intention do we put behind those four letters? 

The word love is used 310 times in the KJV translation of the bible, so this word is seriously important to God, but do we sincerely understand the meaning and message He is trying to get across? 

Based on the bible, three explanations of love stood out to me, that should be remembered when we are trying to understand love. 

1. Love as a choice

This has probably been the biggest truth I have found when it comes to understanding love. Love is not just a feeling, it is a choice. Certainly, we can feel love as an emotion, but we will dive into that later. When God calls us to love our neighbour as our self in Mark 12:31, it isn’t just a whim of choosing who to love. It's a call to love everyone, no matter the amount of time you’ve known them, or whether you have different worldviews. In this scripture, notice how "your neighbour" comes before "yourself." There is importance in that. It means that love is supposed to be a selfless act. One where the needs of others, despite circumstance is put before ours. It's loving them the same way that we would want the best for ourselves. Love is a choice, because, often, we can’t rely on the “love as an emotion" perspective for the long-term. Circumstances change, and feelings are fleeting. Love as a choice says; “I really don’t feel like doing this right now, but I choose to anyway.” And it is hard. It takes work, but it is worth it in the end. God never promised ease when it came to love, but you will find God multiplying those “love them anyway” moments into beautiful investments in your life. So, make the choice to love. 

 

2. Love as a practice

Practise, practise, practise. Love takes a lot of this, because in its most complex circles, there are so many ways for love to be shown, given, received, but in these, it takes putting in the effort. And, despite popular belief, you do learn how to love better. Whether that means giving gifts, spending quality time, giving hugs, sending letters (or e-mails nowadays) etc. These acts take time out of your day and put the focus on others. Love is not this stagnant thing that has a peak level that once reached, you're maxed out. God shows us that our ability to love is active. This active practice also takes discipline. We all know that there are people in our lives that we sometimes find hard to love. But to choose and actively love them anyway, takes work, a lot of it at times. God does this with us every day of our lives; I’m sure there are days when it would be a lot easier for God to say “I am just going to walk away from this” but he chooses to say “despite all of what you’ve done, I love you anyways.” It is a practice, and it doesn’t just happen over night, it takes a lifetime.  

 

3. Love as an emotion

Yes, the one that Hollywood has overemphasized, yet has gotten correct when it comes to love. Those scenes of complete awe where you're so overwhelmed with passion. You feel all tingly on the inside, you cry tears of joy, and in this moment, you are physically reminded that He created us to love. This world tends to focus a lot on this perspective, mostly because we live in a world where unless things can be measured, no other explanation for the phenomenon is valid. Love is an emotion that God designed for us to experience, and while it is both a choice and practice, it is these mountaintop moments where you truly feel the love intended for you and the desire to give to others around you. It's those moments of heaven on earth. To think that God feels that 24/7 about us, despite everything we’ve done, it goes to show just how far we are from really cultivating love.  

Love is this beautiful thing, but it was created by God, and too often, we lose sight of love from a biblical point of view. It is a gift from God, to be shared with everyone around us, just as He does. When we learn to love through these three perspectives, we get a glimpse of the vision of love God had and has for the world. So, today make it a priority to choose to love, to practise how to love, and to feel love, because when you do you, you'll find yourself living the way God intended you to.