“I love your new SUV!” “I love this restaurant!” “I love that movie’s soundtrack.” Countless times, I have expressed these types of sentiments. Perhaps in my eagerness to describe a sincere appreciation for things, I casually say I love them. As innocent as this may appear, I begin to suspect that the careless and repeated misapplication of a word—especially one as foundational as love—tends to dull its rich meaning. Since “God is love” (1 John 4:8), that word should be reserved primarily for my affection for God and neighbor.
In 1 Corinthians 13:4–8, St. Paul delivers one of the most beautiful passages ever offered on the nature of love. Love, he says, is long-suffering and kind. It rejoices in truth and bears all things. It believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends. St. Paul’s message is profound, stirring, and timeless. In a contemporary society that often encourages prideful individualism, love is the corrective measure.
Christ Himself designates love as the identifying mark of His followers: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35). Love, then, is the God-given attribute that creates and sustains existence itself. We innately desire to love and be loved. God’s unfathomable love for us, exemplified through Christ’s death on the cross, calls us to both give love and accept love.
We do not have to abandon our fondness for cars, food, music, or other “stuff.” Indeed, God created matter for our sustenance and measured enjoyment. However, the heart’s greatest desires and concerns should primarily exhibit a relational aspect, indicative of the high priority of our connection to God and others. This is the significance and aim of our love. We are beings, made in God’s image and after His likeness, that will, ideally, not only speak the word love with greater consideration but live by its divine nature as well.
George Tsongranis, MDiv is the Content Developer for the Center for Family Care of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.