How do we define love?
Do you remember the first time you had a crush on someone? Can you remember what their name was? Something about that person – maybe not even something you or I can name – for some reason set them apart from everyone else and you thought those immortal words, “I like this one!”
Feelings can get us into trouble. I don’t know about you, but that is something I could tell a few stories about. The feelings you had for someone else that were not returned. The ones that got you doing strange and weird things like carrying cases and walking out of your way and doing laps around that part of the school field and so on.
Sometimes it ended up embarrassing you but a lot of the time it just led to frustration. And then a week, a month, a year later, you see that same person and the feeling has completely disappeared. Maybe they got a boyfriend or you started crushing on someone else. Maybe nothing actually happened but for some reason, over time, the feelings just were not there any more. Sometimes you look back and think, “What was I thinking?”
The switch to love
When you do manage to finally find someone who shares the same kind of feelings, and a relationship happens as a result, there is this slow steady trek towards the moment of, “I love you!”
It is different for every person, but tends to be something you don’t say on the first date and for many people, that transition from “I like you” to “I love you” is a super big deal. It is the sign that something significant has happened and it is time to move this thing on to some other kind of level. Again, different things to different people.
The movies tend to make it seem a whole lot easier than it is – catching her eye in a crowd, listening to him make that speech, seeing the way she stepped in to care for that old homeless man who was being bullied by the cop. It tends to be quite heavily feeling dependent and lead quite dramatically to sex, or love, or a confused and complicated mixture of the two.
The elusive nature
An interesting description can be found in the Bible, in the letter Paul writes to the Corinthian church we see this in Chapter 13:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails
It is one of the most well-known and much-used passages in the world, especially in weddings. But what’s interesting if you look a little closer, is that the Love mentioned here is not about feeling.
Have you ever felt patient? Do you ever feel like not boasting? Like just letting it go when someone does something wrong to you? Not at all. The Love that is being described here is one of decision over feeling – it’s about choosing right, despite the circumstances you might find yourselves in. Take a bit of time and read through the list and see if you agree.
The last phrase says it all, and it is this kind of Love that I believe you will find in long and happy marriages. ‘Love never fails‘. It doesn’t say that Love doesn’t make mistakes because we know that it will. But it suggests that what lasts and is significant is the Love that chooses relationship over feeling every step of the way (and is not afraid to apologise when it gets it wrong as it likely will). Or perhaps what feelings would look like if they acted out?
When we read that passage, it probably doesn’t sound like too many humans we know, but the example we are given of real and life-transforming Love is Jesus and so we can look to Him to get an idea of what it means to truly Love.