To love or not to love? That is the question and, by its very wording, implies that love is an action that starts with a freewill choice.
There is no shortage of information on the topic of love. Love is, perhaps, one of the most discussed topics in all levels of society, in the forms of books, media, movies, songs, classroom teachings and relationship counseling. Everyone has a desire to be loved, so it’s a little wonder why the topic of love captivates an audience. The need to be loved drives our world.
Society has multiple interpretations of love, which lead many to understand love as a feeling or emotion. The term “love” is used in many ways to describe (a) how someone really enjoys something, such as loving a particular sport or food, (b) an act of pleasure, such as love-making, or (c) a feeling someone gets when they are attracted to another, such as falling in love. These interpretations are expressions of desire or receiving pleasure. According to Dictionary.com, the definition of “love” clearly illustrates the common thinking when using the term.
Furthermore, the corruption of love has led to so much evil in this world from the enslavement caused by pornography addictions to the sexual assaults on so many innocent lives. We’ve all heard it, “sex sells”, and some people will stop at nothing to satisfy their sexual drive in an attempt to fill that void.
However, true love is a willful outward act of affection toward another and is fundamental to the Christian faith. The theme of God’s love for humanity permeates the history, prophecy and poetry recorded throughout the books of the Holy Bible. Even amidst all the earthly turmoil that has existed since Creation, God’s love still abounds. (The topic of suffering is reserved for a later discussion.) Perhaps the most succinct explanation of love can be found in a few chapters of the Bible and these include I John 3:11-24, I John 4:7-21 and I Corinthians 13.
God is love. We are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), so we inherently love and desire to be loved according to His creative design. Therefore, to know God is to understand true love.
[Let] us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. I John 4:7-8 (NIV)
This question naturally follows. If God is almighty and does not need anything, why did He create the human race? He is love and love is an outward act of giving, which requires nothing in return. He created us as beings who are willfully able to receive His unconditional love, even though we are unable to sustain this unconditional love by anything we could give back. He provides and demonstrates His love to us, but does not interfere with our free will to accept it, just as a father unconditionally pours his love on his child regardless of whether the child loves him in return. God—being love that generates action—created the human race so that He might actively pour His love on us.
Some leaders in the scientific community believe this perspective is a conceited view of humanity where we consider ourselves special in deserving and obtaining love from an almighty deity. However, this fact should not elevate one’s ego, but do the very opposite: it is inconceivably humbling to consider that Almighty God created us to be loved by Him, even though we cannot do anything to earn or deserve it!
We are given a choice in this life: will we accept His love and allow Him to direct our decisions and actions? The Bible explains the concept simply.
We love him, because he first loved us. I John 4:19 (KJV)
Do we love Him to get something in return, such as a dwelling in heaven, eternal life, blessings, rewards, riches? No! For then we’ve missed the understanding of love and our love for Him would be conditional. By our own free will, we should love Him for who He is: the Creator God who loved us before time even began.
God’s unconditional love cannot be explained, but can only mildly be compared to the unconditional love that a righteous father has for his child. No matter what that child has done or ever will do, the father will love the child. The father does not require the child to reciprocate his love, yet the father does desire the child to love him in return simply because he is the child’s father. The same is true on a much grander and most perfect scale with our Creator God.
A love for God based on escaping hell, afterlife rewards, eternal life—all positive outcomes from loving Him—is conditional in that one will love God if he provides these benefits. These positive outcomes are the results of loving God, not the reasons to love Him.
Regardless of our acceptance of God’s love, He did demonstrate His love for us in a way that we could directly understand: entering this world as a human, limiting Himself to a humble man most commonly known as Jesus of Nazareth, allowing His human self to be killed, and conquering death through His resurrection. There is no greater example of love than a person giving his/her life for another.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 (NIV)
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. I John 3:16 (NIV)
What other god has shown such depth of love for humanity?
While God dwelt on Earth through the person of Jesus Christ, He had a choice whether or not He would love those who despised Him and allow His life to be taken, even though He could have returned to His higher state at any moment. Yet, according to His free will as a human, He chose to love us by giving up His life. Jesus Christ taught us in words and action by living the greatest example right up until His death.
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)
Volumes have been written on love. Everyone wants the warm and fuzzy feeling, but not everyone wants to take action and action is what love requires. We choose to love God, not because it is easy, fun or a life of temporary blessings, but because of who He is. Likewise, we choose to love a spouse, a parent, a child, a stranger, an enemy, not because it is easy or because they will bless us in return, but because that is what Jesus Christ taught and He lived it unto death.
The Bible states that love will grow cold in the last days on Earth because of the increase in wickedness. This trend is evident even now when individuals are more concerned with satisfying their own desires than demonstrating love to others. Certainly, the corruption of love is growing with the proliferation of entertainment media across the Internet. As individuals within society continue to be more self-serving, the fundamental practice of love will be weakened.
Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. Matthew 24:12 (NIV)
Christians should be diligent in monitoring their faith by considering their outward demonstration of love towards their families, neighbors and enemies.
A new command I [Jesus Christ] give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (NIV)