“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” Victor Hugo
Life will be meaningless without love. Yes, that is a rather profound statement. But stop for a while to think about it, and soon, it becomes clear that the essence of human life is love. Please allow me to explain…
According to the Oxford dictionary (Oxford University Press), essence means ‘the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract that determines its character.’ The most important quality of life, human life, is love. At the very core of it, love is what makes life really worth living. The intrinsic nature of life is love. Love is that indispensable quality that makes life, well, livable and enjoyable. Indeed, the person devoid of love is one who has been robbed of the most important part of life. To take away love from a soul is to take the shine out of it. It is fair to say that not much is left for a person whose life does not know the joy of loving and being loved.
The lack of love, true love, is perhaps the chief cause of most evil in this world; and the presence of it is responsible for joy, happiness, peace and comfort wherever these are found in abundance. Some of the world’s worst crimes have been committed by folks who were denied real love at some point in their lives. Many people are around us today who have taken to different vices and crimes (think of drug addiction, drunkenness, armed robbery etc.) just to fill a nagging emptiness left open by love denied, lost or rejected. For sure, that does not excuse any untoward behavior or absolve individuals of responsibility, but it is important to acknowledge that underneath the criminal’s swagger or the errant youth’s bravado may be a soul in desperate need of genuine love. Some individuals have even gone so far as to commit suicide simply because of love denied or withheld. A lot others may have contemplated or attempted suicide too because they feel they can no longer earn or keep the love of some dear person.
Love assuredly is the most important quality of life. The absence thereof breeds hatred, rape, murder, war, divorce; in short, all the evils of our society. But blessed be God, the presence of love is also the main source of joy, power, and life in its fullness.
Almost all achievements of our civilization have been motivated, rightly or wrongly, by love – either love of self, love for a child, a woman, a mom, or selfless love for God and humanity. Abraham Lincoln was once quoted as saying “all that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” The desire to be loved and appreciated is a positive need which has been largely responsible for the success of great men and women worldwide. Yes, when channeled properly, the need to liked, admired or loved can be a strong motivating force towards spectacular good.
There is abundance, fullness, in loving and being loved freely and fully. Have you ever considered the tremendous change and exuberance that comes over a young person truly in love? Oh, the sheer power of love. Love can have such far-reaching effect on a life, any life. Love can free the most timid and inhibited person you ever saw, and infuse such a person with a new glow and power that will truly amaze you. And it is also true that love can surely ‘reduce’ the strongest and most ‘macho’ of all men to a weakling, bowed joyfully on the floor of loving grace. A genuine experience of love can literarily release forth the forces of life ‘bottled’ up within a person. Imagine the level of liberty, creativity and ingenuity associated with children who are brought up in atmosphere of love. Now compare these children with those brought up in atmosphere of hatred, bitterness, malice, and rancor; and you will then appreciate the great power of love.
Why does love have such a profound influence on life, on all of us? The answer is simply that love happens to be the most important quality of life, the very nature of it. I know it sounds rather soft or naïve, but when you pause long enough to think about it personally, you tend to realize that love makes living worthwhile. In fact, love may have played a huge role in the origin of human love as we know it today: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
This verse clearly suggests that everlasting life – God’s kind of full, rich and prospering life – came to us because of his love for us. That is, there would have been no everlasting redemptive life for us if it weren’t for love, God’s love. God’s kind of life comes through God’s kind of love. Life in its fullness is a natural outflow of love. In fact, we were created in the very first instance because God loved humans and wanted our fellowship. Until love is present in abundance, life cannot be lived in abundance. Love is the gateway to life. Please consider these two related statements:
To live is to love.
To love is to live.
These two statements are two sides of the same coin, and in my opinion, express an important truth to which we should pay attention. Take the first part: to live is to love. This simply means that the need to love and be loved is an inescapable demand that life places on anyone who intends to go through its path. To overlook one’s love responsibility is to trifle with life itself. You cannot live, freely and exuberantly, and still be able to avoid love. As long as you are alive, you are going to have the need to love and be loved. Why? Again, it is because the most important part or quality of life is love. Indeed, love is the very nature of life itself. Hence, to live is to be designed to love. Perhaps this is why nothing else (work, alcohol, sex etc.) can consistently take the place of true love. The earlier we confront this truth, the better, and certainly, the happier we are. To live is to love.
Yet, it is also true that to love is to live. The fullness of live can be enjoyed as one begins to give out love freely to God and to other human beings. There is a tremendous release of life-force that comes with a genuine experience of love. Do you remember the story of Joseph, with his coat of many colors? His story is told in Genesis chapter 37. I have always wondered why Joseph, of all the sons of Jacob, was the only one to dream such great dreams as he did. Of course, there are many possibilities, including the fact that God’s election of grace is central to Joseph’s life. But is it also possible that the extravagant love that his father bestowed on him uniquely freed Joseph to dream extravagant dreams? I am tempted to think so. Joseph experienced a special love from his dad. At least, his coat of many colors testified to that. The love of his father freed him and gave him liberty to dream.
Life opens up great possibilities to the person who walks in love. To begin to love is to begin to enjoy the riches and treasure of life. The way of love is the high-way to meaning and fulfillment. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death” (1 John 3:14). Nothing can be plainer than what this scripture directly implies. To walk in love is to walk in life. Anyone who has not yet begun to take the matter of love seriously is still walking in ‘death’. We may ridicule the idea of love, or caricature it as being for the weak and tender, still it seems clear from God’s word that the only way we know that we have life, God’s kind of life, is by love. Real men and women are not afraid to love and be loved. It is when we live in denial of our need to love and be loved that emptiness, weakness of soul and character creeps in. Until a person learns to give himself away to God and to others in true love, he cannot begin to enjoy fulfillment, contentment and satisfaction in the inner being. Peace within is a product of love within and without. Truly, to love is to live.
If it is true that to live is to love, and to love is to live, what then should be your response? If love is the most important part of life, of your life, what are you doing about this central part of life? Do you overlook it, diminish it and poke fun at it in public but secretly pine away for lack thereof? This book is an attempt to help you embrace your call to love and be loved. It’s certainly not the only book out there on the subject, but it does have a few insights that may help you begin to live the love-life freely, fully and extravagantly. Study with humility. Give yourself to the word of God that it reveals. It is my hope that as the following conversation on love enfolds, you will be present to God who loves us richly, and equips us to love others.
The preceding are excerpts from The Treasures of Love: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0997117621/. Used by permission of the Author. All rights reserved.
May you experience God’s full and rich love in the new year and always.