What is Love?
Inherently buried deep within all human needs is the desire to love, and to be loved. This is an innate cognitive process has been found in man from the very beginning. In Genesis 2:18 (ESV), God says, “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Adam was a complete being in absolute communion with God. Adam was, at this time, a perfect human being void of sin and immune to death. Adam lived in a world that we are all striving to ascertain. A world of divine perfection and daily communication with God. Yet, there was something missing in Adam’s life. Everything he needed was provided in the garden, except one single thing. Adam had everything except someone to share it with. There is a powerful force inside of us cries out for love. Adam had no-one to love and to share in the joys of his life with. God saw this and formed Eve from the flesh of Adam. Not only was Eve made for Adam, but she was formed from Adam. This is why the tie of love is so deep because is is rooted in a formation of something being taken from man and placed in woman. There will always be something missing from the life of man. Yet, through love, men and women and find within themselves completion. This theory though leaves the question to be asked, what actually is love? Feeling? Emotion? Irrational Mentality? Do any of these comprise the basic foundation that forms what love is?
Psychologist Abraham Maslow developed a pyramid in the early 1940’s that would eventually become known as the Hierarchy of Needs. This simple pyramid was revolutionize the way people view the needs of humanity. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has been used in just about every disciple of medicine and human business model known. By taking a look at this simple pyramid we can immediately see how big of a role love plays in human cognitive growth and development. The bottom two levels of the pyramid are Psychological or Biological needs. These needs are comprised of the most fundamental of all human needs. Water, food, air, and sleep are simply a few of the foundational needs a person must have in order to even live. The next level is that of Safety. Maslow argues that once a human has the foundational elements they then must have some form of security or freedom from fear. The very next level is that of social needs. This is the level that love comes into play. Maslow is saying here that once a person has the essentials in order to even survive and has some form of personal security for their life, they then need love.
While this explantation of human need educates us on how vital love is to humans it does not explain what it is comprised of. When observing love or experiencing love one could easily conclude that love is a neurological overload of emotion. After all we understand that love is an experience and one can either be in or out of love. But is it really that simple? Is love simply stirred by neurons? When looking again at Maslow’s theory and at the Bible we must conclude that this is in fact an incorrect assumption. Adam could not have longed for love because his body didn’t know what love was. The emotion of love was not stirred because there was nothing to stir his emotions. Maslow’s theory argues that love is the fundamental element of need once life is secured. If love is not an emotion or a feeling from emotions then what exactly is love?
We must conclude then that love’s fundamental element is based on cognitive decision and service. One cannot love until they decide to love. In essence, love is simply a decision. Adam had everything but lacked the ability to share his experiences with someone like him. The first two elements of Maslow’s theory are both self-centered elements. They are the foundational building blocks of developing a person. Yet, once the person is developed and secured their is a need for something beyond themselves. This is where love comes into play. Love is based off of providing for the needs of another person. If one loves another human being they will go out of their way to make sure person has what they need. True love is based on a decision to attain to another persons needs. True love says, “I have what I need, now I will insure the needs of another.” True love goes beyond oneself. There is no room of selfishness in love, because selfishness is the converse of love. Love is a decision to love. It is true that emotions and feelings are brought about by the decision of love, but they are not the essence of love. In one of the most quoted passages on love of all time Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Each of these examples that the apostle gives can bring about an emotional response, but an emotional response will not always bring these about. Paul says, “Love is patient and kind…” It is true that some emotions can result in making one more kind or patient of another individual. But there are other emotions, rage for example, that will have the complete opposite effect. For this reason we cannot rely on emotion to be the basis of love because emotional response will betray true love time and time again. Yet, firm decision to love will always bring about the same results until a person decides to betray that love.
In conclusion, 1 John 4:7-8 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Before we dive into this verse we must read it with the context of the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” We understand that the concept of love is derived directly from God because he has exemplified love deeper than human thought could ever excavate. God is the essence of love because God is the perfect example of faithfulness. God makes a decision and does not falter from it. Each of the fruit of the spirit is both a definition of God and of love. True love will exemplify each of these fruits just as God does. This is not simply a coincidence, when the decision of love is made through faith in God it is rooted in a foundation that does not falter. True love is comprised in the decision to serve another with God as the foundational element.