We hear a lot about love in our culture, both in popular music and within the church. “Love” is one of those terms that have a multitude of meanings. Often a state of love is seen as one in which the lover expects to receive something from his or her beloved in return for the love which they give. A state of love can only exist if the lover’s needs are being fulfilled.
This understanding of how love works is easily explained within our culture because this is precisely the way God’s Love is portrayed in our prevalent theology. It is assumed that God created man to honor and worship Him as a means of demonstrating their love for Him. God supposedly loves mankind but only to the extent that man returns that love through obedience. God’s so called love is therefore conditional, depending ultimately on the beloved’s behavior.
In my experience, one of the best definitions of love was rendered by author M. Scott Peck in his book, The Road Less Travelled. Peck described love as that which motivates one to work for the long term best interests of the loved one. This is an operational definition of love, one that explains how love works. It is an apt description of an unfailing, relentless preoccupation with achieving the absolute best outcome for those who are loved. It is a selfless kind of love which differs markedly from the more common notions of love, both ecclesiastical and romantic.
The Bible does not leave us without a detailed description of its concept of Love, which most assuredly pictures God’s own. That picture, in I Corinthians 13, forever debunks the church’s misrepresentation of God and his supposedly “needy” and demanding brand of love. Love is either selfless, or it isn’t Love at all.