Love is wonderful, absolutely beautiful. Love is meant to be cherished forever. Love is free from the things bound in this world, but what exactly is love? The Bible tells people that "you love your neighbor as yourself." (Leviticus 19:18) So very early on - in Leviticus! - we have the concept of love as something beautiful and desirable. I consider it strange that people need a commandment to love one another, but do we truly understand what love is?
Love is the ultimate imperative. The Apostle John wrote:
"If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him that he who loves God must love his brother also." (1 John 4:20-21)
People who display perfect love do not sin. The ultimate perfection of love, Jesus cited Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 as the two greatest commandments:
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Mathew 22:37-40)
People who display perfect love do not sin because love is the complete opposite of sin. Love leads to repentance and to forgiveness when the sinner deeply regrets and feels shame for the what he or she has committed. "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins." (Proverbs 10:12) God forgives our sins out of His love, just as we are to forgive the repentant sinners their trespasses.
Love never bears a grudge. Love is in forgiving others their sins against you.
"Then Peter came to Him and said, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you up to seven times, but to seventy times seven." (Mathew 18:21-22)
Love is showing compassion and concern. Love is enjoying the presence and company of others. Peter cited Proverbs 10:12 and followed it with "Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one as received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." (1 Peter 8-10)
Love is in getting to know the neighbors and your friends. Love shows itself through invitations to dinner. Just last week, my parents invited two of their friends, another married couple, over to a home-cooked meal. And I hope to invite one of my friends soon. Love is learning about each other's lives through each other's conversations. Love is in reaching out to people who have no one else.
I wonder when Jesus was at that Last Supper if He thought back upon the past three years with His disciples and felt sadness at leaving them. Jesus cherished those three years with His disciples. During that Last Supper, Jesus said, "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." (John 15:12-13)
Love is in sacrificing one's time, one's energy, and even one's life for others. "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And also we lay down our lives for the brethren." (1 John 3:16) Today, we refer to people who sacrifice themselves for others as heroes. But anyone can be willing to sacrifice oneself for others in dire situations. And self-sacrifice is more than giving up one's life. Self-sacrifice is also in giving one's time and energy.
Love is in freely giving charity and generosity to the poor and to the needy and to the people who fall upon difficult times. God commands us to be charitable:
"You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying; 'you shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor, and your needy in the land." (Deuteronomy 15:10-11)
Giving charity is what the Apostles considered and acted upon very seriously. James has a strong condemnation for Christians who neglect charity and good deeds (James 2:14-17). Paul wrote:
"When James, Peter, and John who seemed to be pillars perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship... they desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do." (Galatians 2:9-10)
Love is donating to food banks or working at shelters. Love is being with your neighbor whose family member suffers from an illness and has no one else for support. Love is helping people financially through difficult times. Love is getting to know who these people are because they are people with thoughts and feelings and views, perhaps very similar to your own. Love is within connecting to others. Love is more than feeding the poor and the needy.
"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind: love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:3-8)
Love can also be in helping people to find jobs and employment. "Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need." (Ephesians 4:28) A person who is employed can also participate in giving charity and compassion to others.
People who love each other never fear each other. "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18) People who love each other enjoy each other's company and presence, just as God wants us to understand His love so that we may love Him and enjoy His presence. God said, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you." (Jeremiah 31:3)
Love is holy and sacred.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. he who does not love does not know God, because God is love." (1 John 4:7-8)
When we show love for one another, even for our enemies as well as our friends and neighbors, then we show that we truly follow the teachings of Jesus who said, "By this all will know that you are my true disciples if you have love for one another." (John 13:35)