Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The greatest of these is...

LOVE - What a concept! But what does it mean? It is the subject of countless songs, and a word that we often use in many different ways: "I love you." "Women love chocolate." "Do you believe in true love?"

So what is Love? Many dictionaries define love as a feeling, affection, or even sexual desire for another person or an object. In other words, the world defines love by the things that bring pleasure to us. Love is often used in the place of desire (e.g., "I love brownies.").

I can't help but see the connection here to a lecture I had today on one of Mortimer Adler's Six Great Ideas. Today we discussed the idea of the Good. For centuries there was a consensus among philosophers that Good=Desire. We make value judgments based on our desires. For example, I might say that my keyboard is good because I press its keys and they all work. The keyboard is good to me because it satisfies my desire to type words. The problem with this definition of Good is that it is completely subjective. If Good=Desire, then I can say "what is good for me may not be good for you." Every person desires different things.

This is where we draw the distinction between natural and acquired desires. Natural desires are inherent in our nature, the things that every human naturally desires. Acquired desires are developed through exposure to the environment, circumstances, and individual temperament throughout life. A simple way to make the distinction between the two is to employ the terms want and need. We do not have wrong or misguided needs, but we can certainly want things that we do not need. So we know that there is a difference between what is really good for us and what we perceive to be good for us. The significance of this is that Good is not subjective. It is a definite standard that is the same for all people.

I found it interesting that another definition for Good is Being. Mere existence is considered good. Consider what God said to Moses through the burning bush: "I AM THAT I AM." This statement is God's claim to Being, and we know God to be the ultimate form of Good. Also, in the story of Creation, God looks at all that He created and sees that it was good. All things, in their simple state of existence, were good. With this assumption, we can then say that all objects in existence are good. Therefore, evil does not exist as an opposing force to Good. Rather, evil is the lack of Good, or existence. Objects themselves are not evil. Instead, evil can be measured by a lack of form, or when objects are put into a state of disorder (sin).

But back to Love. There is debate over whether we should consider Love a noun or a verb. We must remember that it is both. 1 John tells us that God is Love. It is this definition of Love as a noun that allows us to give love as a verb.

7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Sonb into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice forc our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19We love because he first loved us. 20If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4)

Love is also described in 1 Corinthians:

Love is patient and kind;
Love does not envy or boast;
It is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
It is not irritable or resentful;
It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Blogger Fred Sanders makes an interesting suggestion for reading this passage. Since Love=God, replace the word love with Jesus and you really begin to see the truth in these statements:

Jesus is patient and kind;
Jesus does not envy or boast;
He is not arrogant or rude.
He does not insist on his own way;
He is not irritable or resentful;
He does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Our equation now looks like this: Love=Good=Desire=Being=God

This right here is the meaning of life. Once you understand the Love that was given to us by God in the form of Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross (John 3:16), you will have a desire to show the same love to every person. Imagine, God is in us when we love each other! Whoever loves knows God and God is in him.

37Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’b 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’c 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Do not let your emotions rule you. Love is not a feeling. Love is God. Do all things in Love and you will have a very fulfilling life! (1 Corinthians 16:4)

1If I speak in the tonguesa of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,b but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13)
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)