What is Love?


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Here is a quick post about love, specifically human love (whether believers or unbelievers) which I pondered lately based on what I have read. Some are quick to say that it is all about emotion, while others are swift to deny emotion/feelings from it. 

Two extremes: 1. Love has no emotional aspect. 2. Love is all about emotion.

But what is love? 

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
(1Jn 4:19-21 ESV)

Here, John mentions the indicative “we love”, and the imperative “and this commandment” of love. Surely, it is something that is true for all Christians as we are being changed by the loving God to love Him and our brethren in Christ. Indeed, it includes emotion! To think of love devoid of its emotional aspect (humanly speaking) is to deny the reality of Christ’s compassionate heart for His people. 

But this is not to deny God’s attribute of love as His perfection (I believe in God’s impassibility, which is reserved for another blog post.) For now, let me quote authors who have something to say about love which is not primarily about emotion but nevertheless includes emotion. 

“In biblical categories, love functions more as a verb than as a noun. It is more concerned with doing than with feeling.” 

R.C. Sproul

“…love is not sentimental. It is not even FUNDAMENTALLY emotional. Its essence is self-sacrifice; it manifests itself in the desire to serve, help and enrich others. It is by love that the centrifugal force of sin is counteracted, for sin divides where love unites, and sin separates where love reconciles.” 

— John Stott. “Basic Christianity”, p. 112

“Love is an act of the will accompanied by emotion that leads to action on behalf of its object.”

Voddie Baucham, Family Driven Faith (Paperback Edition with Study Questions ): Doing What It Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk with God

Our external delights, our ambition and reputation, and our human relationships – for all these things our desires are eager, our appetites strong, our love warm and affectionate, our zeal ardent. Our hearts are tender and sensitive when it comes to these things, easily moved, deeply impressed, much concerned, and greatly engaged. We are depressed at our losses and excited and joyful about our worldly successes and prosperity. But when it comes to spiritual matters, how dull we feel! How heavy and hard our hearts! We can sit and hear of the infinite height, and depth, and length, and breadth of the love of God in Christ Jesus, of His giving His infinitely dear Son – and yet be cold and unmoved!… If we are going to be emotional about anything, shouldn’t it be our spiritual lives? Is anything more inspiring, more exciting, more loveable and desirable in heaven or earth than the gospel of Jesus Christ?… The gospel story is designed to affect us emotionally – and our emotions are designed to be affected by its beauty and glory. It touches our hearts at their tenderest parts, shaking us deeply to the core. We should be utterly humbled that we are not more emotionally affected than we are.

Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections

Feelings must be engaged. They are meant to be involved… [Yet] our danger is to submit ourselves to our feelings and to allow them to dictate to us, to govern and to master us and to control the whole of our lives.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression – Its Causes and its Cures, 1965, p. 110, 112

John who lovingly wrote the passage above learned love closely from Christ, the God-man, who loves His Father and His church more than we do. If you want to learn, know, and see what love is, look upon Christ who loves so deeply, rightly, and compassionately, that we may love Him and our brethren sacrificially.

To God be the glory!

Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay
This article was published by Jeff Chavez for Herald of Grace Covenant Bible Church of Cavite. Click on the link for the original source: https://hgcbcc.com/2023/07/03/what-is-love/

Jeff Chavez

Jeff Chavez

Jeff Chavez is a servant of the LORD Jesus Christ, husband of Gloryben, and father of Myrhh Abigail. One of the preachers and teachers at Herald of Grace Covenant Bible Church of Cavite.
Jeff Chavez

Jeff Chavez

Jeff Chavez is a servant of the LORD Jesus Christ, husband of Gloryben, and father of Myrhh Abigail. One of the preachers and teachers at Herald of Grace Covenant Bible Church of Cavite.

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