What is love?

Love isn’t just about being nice, it’s about wishing and willing good. Love in our culture is usually associated with either romantic feelings or deep affection for someone: we love our spouses, or we love our friends. This cultural view of love is sentimental, it’s about a feeling of niceness toward others that we can maintain for a while, but won’t last. We can be nice for a while, then go off and sulk; or be nice to a friend’s face while nursing a grudge, then run off and gossip to our friends. Sometimes we can think of God’s love as this same type of niceness. D.A. Carson describes this view of love as having “all the awesome holiness of a cuddly toy, all the moral integrity of a marshmallow.” Our current pandemic and our calling as Christians demands “something a great deal more profound than sentimental niceness.”

Love is wishing and willing good. C.S. Lewis defines biblical love well: not as a state of feelings but an act of our will. “It is… that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people… our love for ourselves does not mean that we like ourselves. It means that we wish our own good.” Love then isn’t something we know how to do with anyone naturally, except ourselves. We have to learn how to love others, and we have to put our backs into it. That’s the kind of love the scriptures speak of and Christ has made a way.

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