I’ve begun importing the particularly good articles from my old blog to this one. This is the first in that series.
(First Published in January of 2007)
I recently received some social data that sheds some light on my quest for the meaning of true love.
Once again, I will contrast two viewpoints. The popular viewpoint is that love is an emotion. Affection, or something similar and perhaps stronger. The popular Church viewpoint is that love is an action. Doing the right thing for the person, and so on.
Now, this viewpoint seems to line up with Scriptural teachings except for one minor thing. In the famous love passage (1st Corinthians 13), Paul clearly states that doing good things is pointless unless one has love.
I have been perusing Biblical Social Values and Their Meaning by John Pilch and Bruce Malina, and have discovered that the ancient Semitic cultures would view love as primarily a state of attachment or bonding.
Why would Jesus have to say “He who loves me will follow my commands” if love as action was a given? But the ancient Semites were not primarily doers. States of being were more important than action. Hence the need for Jesus to relate actions to love.
Emotion, while attached to the idea of love to the ancients, was not necessary either. Instead, the important thing was a bond. A connection. To love was to attach yourself to others, to grow together.
This, of course, blows the lid off of modern charity, where we drop some money in a basket to help some starving kid in Africa. In order to be understood as Biblical, love has to involve both the action, and the commitment. It seems that when Jesus said “Love your Neighbor”, or “Love your Enemy”, he was talking about the neighbors or enemies right next door. The ones you could really get to know.
At least, that is how his disciples would have likely heard his command.
Oh, and you should still help starving kids in Africa. That fits into other Biblical values, like generosity. It’s just not something that the writers of Scripture would call “love”.