I tried to avoid writing anything related to Valentine’s Day. After all, what’s with the day anyway? With all those overpriced flowers and chocolates, Valentine’s Day has become a merchant’s heaven where flower shops, confectioneries, restaurants and most of the mall is in bloom.
Call me bitter or just plain ignorant with those comments, but here I am posting something about Valentines in the middle of February in answer to some nagging question at the back of my head that’s really seasonal: What is love?
So what is love?
Take all the books about love that you would know, add in the mix the die hard poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Shakespeare, Alexander Smith, or any other poet you may know or just find on Google. Mix it all up and you still will not be able to find the right words to fully answer the question. Sometimes you may even end up with a distorted view of love. Sometimes we think is love is when we see a beautiful face, or sexy figure walk in front of us with a smile and a wave. That probably is lust more than love. Sometimes we think that because a person gives us enough time, attention, gifts or service, they love us. Maybe, or maybe not.
What is love?
But as couples stroll along the parks and malls, as men line up in a flower shop and as ladies walk along the streets with a bunch of flowers, balloons and what not, you can’t help but ponder the question. It’s like suddenly a giant gap appeared before your mind.
Personally I could not even answer the question simply because I grapple with it as well. For a single-since-birth 20-something bookworm struggling to make ends meet or probably meet the end, it’s a roller coaster ride. I must admit I am not a guru. In fact, in the eyes of the world I am some sort of a loser or I probably just got it wrong inside my head. For starters, I tried pursuing love with acts of service, gifts and kind words that I could not dare expound for a long span of time. I couldn’t declare what I felt openly, but I ended up feeling more lonely than when I first started.
Then, in another instance, with a different person, with a sudden burst of collected courage, I spoke up what I truly feel for the very first time, I ended up feeling sheepish while trying to state my claim that I was almost at the brink of crying. I guess I am not so good with the spoken word especially extemporaneous. God knows what would happen next.
See what I mean? In a society that dictates that words speak clearer than actions and actions speak louder than words, I either could not speak at all or could only speak gibberish. God must still think that I am a work in progress. Maybe I am. Never mind about me.
So what is love?
People turn to the Bible when asked about love. Their target is that never ending quote from 1 Corinthians 13. It always comes up.
“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. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Come to think of it though, the verse describes qualities of love more than defines it. Seriously, could anyone define patience? It’s most likely not about which person could wait the longest or who could withstand the most pain or pressure. Patience is more than that. The same goes with perseverance, and many others that were included in the verse. They are qualities that could take up a vague imagery in the mind if taken alone.
Moreover, the Bible says that God is love. Thus replacing the “love” in 1 Corinthians 13, you will discover that the verse actually describes God more than love. God after all is love.
So what is love?
There must be something more tangible – a more active description than that. It should be something that would tell us what to do or how to express love better.
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 and sisters.
1 John 3:16
The truest expression of love was shown to us by Christ. He laid down His life for us. But before we start slashing our wrists, mutilating our bodies, or seeking a death wish in the name of love, we need to consider the next verse down the line.
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:17-18
The act of charity – of giving and giving without expecting anything in return is love. This could be best shown to people who are in need and not just exclusively to one person but to everyone. Love is giving a piece of ourselves to others without expecting anything in return. In the same way that Christ gave His life for us to save us, we should live our lives giving out to people who need love the most.
That is probably love.
“And 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 them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There 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.
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen,cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
1 John 4:16-21