The Power of Love
How do you define love? It might depend on who you ask. What kind of love are we talking about? Are we talking about the kind you read about in the latest Nicholas Sparks’ novel? Are we talking about that scene in your favorite romantic comedy that makes you feel all warm inside, or are we talking about something else? Perhaps love is a wife who stays with her husband and cares for him even though he has lost his mental capabilities and he doesn’t remember her at all.
What if we are not talking about romantic love at all? In our current culture when we hear the word love, we tend to think about romantic love. The word love is found all over the Bible and it is rarely used in the context of romantic love. How do you define biblical love? Again, it might depend on who you ask. Everyone does not think the same way. Moderns tend to think rationally and logically. They want an actual definition. Postmoderns do not think this way. Instead of looking for a definition, they would rather hear a story. One is not right and the other wrong. They are simply different ways of thinking. The Bible actually provides an answer for both perspectives.
If you are a rational and logical thinker, then the Bible provides you with an actual definition of love.
“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” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
That is a pretty good definition of love. We can learn a lot about what love is and is not from that definition, but does this definition tell us everything we need to know about love? I don’t believe so. Sometimes a definition is good, but in this case we need a little more.
Love is central to Christianity. The apostle John tells us that God is love. It is important that we understand this concept the best we can. Instead of propositions and definitions, postmoderns would rather have a story. This is not a threat to Christianity, since most of the Bible is story. The Bible uses stories to help teach us about important concepts like love.
In Luke 10 Jesus is asked by a lawyer what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus points him to the law, but the lawyer is not satisfied. He wants more clarification. Jesus quotes the two greatest commands: Love God and love your neighbor. The lawyer is still not satisfied and so Jesus tells a story. It is a story we are familiar with. We may not be able to quote 1 Corinthians 13, but we know the story of the Good Samaritan. Stories stick with us. We can easily recall them, and this is significant because a story like this one helps define what love is.
The story of the Good Samaritan is a story about sacrifice. Love costs us something. It is easy to walk by on the other side of the road, but love demands we stop and help. Love demands our time, energy, and wealth. The Good Samaritan was willing to sacrifice these things for a complete stranger. Why? The only answer is love.
Jesus defines love for us in this story. The definition we get from Paul is nice, but this story goes even further and yet this is not even the most comprehensive story about love in the Bible. The story of Jesus is a story about love overcoming power. Love defeated Caiaphas and Pilate. Love overcame the power of Rome because love was willing to lay down his life. Love not only died for his friends. Love died for his enemies as well. Love offered forgiveness on the cross. What is the greatest power at our disposal? It is not power or might. It is love. Love conquers all.
How do we tell people about love? We could give them a definition, but I don’t think they would be too interested. It is hard to find anyone who would listen to another person talk about the definition of a word. Thankfully a definition is not the only thing we have. We have a story, but not just any story. It is the greatest love story ever told. Ask someone if they want to hear a great love story and I am confident you will be able to find some people who are ready to listen.
For more on modern and postmodern thinking, check out The Church, Postmodernism, and Relative Truth