Can love be defined? Absolutely! The great problem we face in our society today is that we have not defined love absolutely. Love is a relative term for many, meaning whatever the individual wants it to mean. The Christian has the unique opportunity of demonstrating love before a society where love is growing cold.
Love can be defined as desiring and acting in the best interests of another as those “best interests” are defined by God. The definition has two parts:
1. desiring and acting in the best interests of another. Love is the opposite of selfishness. As Paul puts it, love “is not self-seeking” (1 Corinthians 13:5). That is why so much emphasis is made in Scripture on not merely loving “with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). One may claim to desire another’s best interests and still act selfishly. Genuine love will be demonstrated by action wherever that is possible, even if the action is spending your time in prayer for that individual. Also implied by this part of the definition is that loving is a matter of choice. Nothing is said about feeling warm toward the other person, though that may and should be something that follows or is worked on. Love is a command. God’s commands are to be obeyed, whether we “feel” like obeying them or not.
2. as those best interests are defined by God. We don’t know or won’t admit what is good for another without being told by God’s Word. The basic standard is given in Leviticus 19:18, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.” Would you kill yourself when you make a mistake? Would you want to be manipulated by another into satisfying their sensual desires? Would you want someone who knew the way to get to heaven to conceal it from you? Unfortunately, there might be some who would answer yes to these questions. That is why God gave a detailed breakdown of exactly how we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. We may not murder, we may not commit adultery, we must warn others when there is impending danger. These basic commands in Scripture tell us that God’s law is, generally speaking, a delineation of how we must love.
Love is not a relative thing. It is an absolute standard, a Christian grace that must and will be evident in a Christian’s life. Are you acting in the best interests of those in your family, your church, your work, your neighborhood? Are you subjecting your definition of what is in their best interests to God’s analysis as found in His Word? If they were to treat you the way you are treating them, would you be happy?