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What Is Love?

It is not too late to ask a most important question, "What is love, real love?"

We know by now that sex and love are not identical. Sex is, of course, a very important aspect of married love. But all sex is not love and love does not always involve sex. So what is love?

1. For most people love is a feeling of excitement towards somebody. People "fall in love" with each other. That means that they suddenly realize that they have a feeling of being specially attracted towards the other one. And it is based on the (sexual) attractiveness of the other person. Love can also mean a feeling of sympathy towards someone in need, like a lonely child. In both these cases "love" describes a feeling.

2. The word love can also be used for "being fond of". This love depends on the likeableness of the other person such as being fond of a friend because he or she is friendly and unselfish or can keep up an interesting conversation. If the person changes, then one's love for him or her may come to an end.

3. Real love, the love of which the Bible speaks, is, however, much more than a good feeling towards another person. It is also not dependent on the loveableness of the other person. True love seeks the happiness and the wellbeing of the beloved one. Love is not selfish in that it seeks the happiness of oneself. Love wants to give. God's love for us is the best example of true love:

Read John 3:16 and Galatians 2:20 and fill in the missing words:
"For God so loved the world that he ________ his one and only Son."
"The Son of God ... loved me and ___________ himself for me."

Many a young person says to his or her partner: I love you. But what they really mean is: I have a nice feeling about you. And in many cases the person is in love with the feeling - not with the other person! But love is a decision to seek the best for the beloved one. Love is a commitment to the well-being of the other one.

Therefore, in the Bible, love is often a command. Jesus said we must love each other as he loved us. And Paul said in Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church." True love does not ask: How do I feel about it? But rather: What can I do to make him or her happy? The pattern and example of this love is Jesus. He loved us in spite of our sins. He did not ask whether we are worthy of his love. His love made us worthy of his love (Ephesians 5:25-32).

True love can even love an enemy, because true love does not depend on the other, but on the attitude of the one who loves. God so loved the world (people who were his enemies) that he gave his Son. He loved and he gave (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).

We sometimes see this real love in parents towards their children. They love their children in spite of their mistakes. They do not want to receive from their children as much as they want to give them what is good.

But love hopes all things (1 Corinthians 13:7), says Paul. Love hopes to receive back from the beloved one. True love hopes for an answer to love. Parents often make great sacrifices for their children. They do this because they love them. But they hope that the children will learn to love them. True love longs for love.

God's love for us is unconditional and undeserved. We deserved eternal death and separation from God. But he gave himself in Jesus Christ to us. And his love hopes for our love, yes - he longs for our love. As we get to know his love, we find love growing in our own hearts (1 John 4:19). We respond to his love.

We can now come back to sexual love again. God intended sex to go together with real love. If we separate sex from true love we do not have true sex either. And if one sleeps with a girl (or boy) without true love, just for "sex," both partners are dehumanized. I treat the other person not as a person, but as one who must satisfy my sexual need. We treat each other as "bodies without souls". And that is degrading and dehumanizing.

True sexual satisfaction occurs when man and woman give themselves unconditionally and permanently to one another. They become one in body and soul.

Sex for the sake of your own satisfaction misses the whole point of sex, which is to give yourself totally to the beloved one.

Because sex without love is half-sex, we can only understand sex when we have understood love.

What then is sex? Sex is that physical and mental capacity in human beings which seeks to have full physical, mental and psychological communion with a person of the opposite sex. And only if that person is my beloved husband or wife can sex, the gift of God, reach its wonderful fulfilment as God intended.

But if true love is more than just a feeling or desire, we must find out where we can find it. The Bible tells us.

Read Romans 5:5 and Galatians 5:22.

Who gives love in our hearts?

By whom?

What is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit?

When you surrender yourself to God, he will forgive all your sins and fill your heart with true love. This is the beginning of a happy life.

Prayer: God of love, please cleanse me from selfishness and fill me with  your Holy Spirit, so that your love can flow through me. Amen.

Questions to Discuss in the Group

1. How will I know that I love someone enough to marry him or her?

2. If love means that I should give - is it not much easier not to love?  Explain.

3. How can I be sure that God loves me?

4. Why can a man and woman only "give themselves unconditionally to  one another" after marriage?