Love. It is a four letter word. It is something often talked about, a thing sought after by most people, but seemingly rarely understood.
I am speak specifically about the love that is the bond between two people. It is something elusive, difficult to define and mysterious in some ways, but a very real part of our human existence.
I’m sure there are as many perspectives on love as there are people. However, I can think of three main categories that describe tendencies or common landing spots for many people when it comes to the topic of love.
A Cynical (Scientific) View of Love
This is the idea that reduces love to a function of biology. It is hard to deny sexual attraction as a factor in who people select and who they reject as potential partners. Base desires (like those described crassly in this article) could seem to explain love away as little more than two people acting in their own mutual self-interest or selfishness.
This is jaded view. It is backed by scientific evidence. Statistics do show that factors like height, economic status and appearance do play a significant role. It would be easy to conclude that who we love is a mere product of pheromones, playing ‘the game’ right and nothing more than that. It is not an idea without merit.
A ‘Romantic’ (Emotional) View of Love
This is the love of middle school girls (pardon the stereotype) and those starry-eyed idealists who never mature. This is the territory of the “meant to be” people who confuse their current feelings with “happily ever after” fantasies. I say fantasies, because I’ve seen these types of relationships based on initial attraction and tingly feelings fail miserably.
Certainly some of these relationships do survive and grow. But I put the word romantic in apostrophes because this is a very shallow and childish view of love. It is also a view of love that leads to disappointment both for the prince(sse)s who discover Mr(s) Perfect isn’t actually and also for those who never do find ‘the one’ and miss opportunities right under their nose.
A ‘Christian’ (Transcending) View of Love
Love is a choice. This goes against conventional and popular ideas of love that put emphasis on the feelings, predestined and chemical side of things. It is an idea that we can rise above animal instincts, that there is an aspect of our reality not determined by fate and that love can be something more.
I use apostrophes around Christian because the behavior many who profess faith is better described by the views of love I listed prior. Christian love is supposed to follow the example of Jesus Christ and self-sacrifice. Sure, some may hide their self-seeking under a layer of righteous sounding excuses and rationales, but underneath the religious veneer there is nothing that separates them from their secular counterparts.
Higher Love Requires Sacrifice
The appropriate Christian view of love centers on commitment over immediate feelings and base sexual urges. It is not something defined by fleeting teenage hormones or unrealistic Disneyland expectations, but something that develops and slowly grows stronger over time. It is a mature kind of love that looks beyond outward appearance and sees a heart.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV)
The views of love that focus on youthful passions is not the kind of love I seek. I do not want love that is actually lustful desire nor that based on some fairytale perfectionistic delusion. Instead, the love I see as worth study and emulation is that of an old couple.
I think of my grandparents who have seen each other through the best and worse of life. They have a love built on time, experience and wisdom. They have remained faithful to each other despite their quirks, mistakes and shortcomings.
I sometimes wonder if this kind of love is even possible in this impractical and superficial age. Still I do hold out hope.