“What’s love to you?”
“I don’t know. You tell me!”
A dear friend caught me off guard a while back when she challenged me to define love. It turned out to be a lot harder than I thought. The problem for me was not that I don’t know what love is, but rather I had a hard time trying to identify and pull apart the characteristics of the kind of love we were talking about – spousal love; the love you hope you can share with a partner for a lifetime. I had to think about it a lot and essentially the best I could come up with is that it is a kind of “pinnacle” love… it contains all the characteristics of many kinds of love.
So, for example, I believe the sentiments of the following verse: “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” While this is a component of my relationship with my Mrs., obviously I love her differently than I love God or my neighbor.
I also look to a different verse – “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” This is the “rope over a precipice of death” test. If I was dangling on an unraveling rope with her, would I be willing to let go if I knew my sacrifice would save her life? Is there a component of wanting to put the other person first? This one is a little counter cultural these days, but I feel it still applies if your goal is a long term relationship. It must also be viewed in the light of the first verse as it follows that if we do not love ourselves, we can’t really offer love to our neighbor. The problem with this definition of love, however, is that there are many people that I could say this about. I certainly would let go of the rope for my children, for example. Continue reading