"Love" is one of those words in the English language that can leave us easily confused.
As we prepare to celebrate Valentine's Day Tuesday, let's examine the various ways in which this word is being used in contemporary society, and how Jesus used the word.
Love can mean a strong attachment to pancakes or pickles, a deep emotional attachment to another person like a spouse, parent or neighbor, it can express a deep “fan” relationship with a movie franchise like Star Wars, or it can mean lust for a drug, a person, an object, or a stranger.
This imprecise definition didn’t exist in the oldest manuscripts of the words of our Master, Jesus, which were preserved in Greek.
Love most often was conveyed in the Gospel books with a word, agape [agapaō] which means a pure, all-consuming love.
It’s this word that is used when Jesus calls us to, "Love Yahweh, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." And, "Love your neighbor as yourself."
It was not limited to our friends, or to those who love us, because it’s agape that is used when Jesus says “Love your enemies.” (Matt. 5:43)
The Fourth Gospel records, “For God so loved the world,” using that same word, agape, showing that God has deep, abiding and unlimited love for us. God chose and sent out Jesus as our special example to us, so that we might not live in darkness, but in light
But it’s not just God than can show this love, however. We are called by Jesus to “Love one another; JUST as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
The fact that we are to love “JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU” is a powerful calling to us. We are told by Jesus that we may indeed love just as he loved; act just as he acted; serve just as he served. Our love is to have no bounds, just as Jesus’ love had no bounds.
This is all important to understand, given the many misconceptions about “love” – even among those who attend the churches of Christendom today – and even among those who do not.
"Love" having so many meanings, many today believe the love we are called to show is the shallow love we have for food, movies and other things with which we have a strong emotional attachment.
It would be a serious mistake, however, to assume that ALL we must do is express a light, shallow Love towards God and towards others. "Love is All You Need" is the name of an awesome Beatles song about emotional attachment between two lovers, not the imperative that Jesus calls us to embrace.
The Power of Love, the kind of Love that God shows us through His son, Jesus, is the kind of Love that is deep, unattached to emotions. It’s not an erotic love, or a shallow love, or a "love" that has no meaning or caring behind it, but it is instead the deepest and most pure Love there is.
This kind of Love must be the cornerstone of our faith. Love of God and love of our neighbors is what Jesus calls us to actively show in our daily lives.
The faith that Jesus teaches challenges us to love God so much that we love others just as God does, and show it by doing Good Works in the service of others.
And we are called to love and obey God and serve others, using Jesus' perfect example as our guide, and then we are to accept that GOD ALONE is our judge, and our God is a God of mercy, if we ask for it.
"Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me." (John 14:21)
"If you keep my commandments," says Jesus, "you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love." (John 15:10)