Often, we mistakenly think of love in terms of sentiment, romance, emotions, or even euphoria (oh, I just love everybody) (Woodstock).
But these are not the kinds of “love” God is calling us to exhibit. In fact, these kinds of “love” are not love at all. They are feelings. They can accompany love, but they are not love itself.
Rather, God is calling us to selfless love; a love of action; what the Catholic Church simply calls “charity.”
We can observe our human natures and know that we are made for love. For instance, everybody loves something. In fact, we all love a lot of things. But sometimes our love is misguided.
Even people who seem to hate everything and everybody, love to hate. Otherwise, they would take appropriate actions to root out hate from their lives.
This is why Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). He’s telling us that we can invest our treasures, and, therefore, our hearts in all kinds of things, good or bad.
To help us guide our love correctly, we need to have a good definition of love.
What Is Love
Love is willing what is best for another for the other’s sake.
If I will to make a million dollars this year, then I will take steps to achieve this goal. If I do not take these steps, then I clearly do not will it. I may desire it, but I do not will it.
Loving someone is selfless (you do it for the other, not for self) and active (it is not a desire or feeling). Sure, desires and feelings can, and often do, accompany love, but they are not love.
If your parents asked you for help and you consistently told them no, but maintained sentimental feelings for them and even told them you love them, do you really love them? No.
Intersection of Love and Truth
Since love can go astray so easily, seeking what is evil, truth must guide our love. During the last lesson, I mentioned we are made for truth and Jesus said he is the Truth. Well, God is not only Truth, He is also Love.
Therefore, to be truly remade in the image and likeness of God, truth must govern our love. If I love without truth, then I will love anything I desire and will immediately become self-centered.
For example, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God rather than to obey Him. By choosing a created object (the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil) above the uncreated Good Himself, Adam and Eve chose to love this object and to reject God.
Their rebellion was governed by a lie, namely, Satan’s words, “You will not die,” rather than the truth, namely, God’s words, “For in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
Adam and Eve, therefore, preferred death over eternal life with God. We communicate this same preference for death every time we commit a mortal sin.
Thankfully, God gives us opportunities and grace to turn away from sin and turn to Him in love.
1 Corinthians 13 says (paraphrasing), “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love never ends…. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways…. So, faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
God is calling us to cast aside childish attachments to sin and lies, and to embrace love governed by truth.