Yes, love is love, but we label a lot of things “love” that are really something else entirely. Lust is not love. Sex is not love. Sex can be an expression of love, but it can also be very far removed from it—its antithesis. Sex can be a transaction, self-seeking, an abuse of power, or violent. Love is none of those things. So when we say “love is love,” let’s make sure we’re talking about love, and not any of its counterfeits.
Even if we use the right word, not all loves are created equal. Love can be good. The love of a mother for her child is indestructible. But “…the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10a). Consider the destruction and violence done in the name of slavery or sex trafficking. The love of money is fuel for those and other infernal iniquities.
We use the word “love” so casually. We apply it to people, places, and things concurrently. I think love, true love, is only valid when applied to a living being. Everything else is an intense like, preference, or love-adjacent feeling. When I’m talking about love, I want to mean the highest order of love—whether romantic, platonic, or familial. And for the definition, I look to a commonly quoted source that almost anyone who’s attended a wedding will find familiar—the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians.
Love is patient. It does not hold the object of its affection to its own schedule of growth or change. It lets the beloved set the pace. Love transcends trends and peer pressure. Love knows how to wait.
Love is kind. Love leads to a softening of the heart––a genuine desire to delight the beloved. Love engenders benevolence and generosity. It gives without counting the cost. In true love, there is no tab and there are no strings. Everything that is given in love is given gladly and freely.
Love does not envy. Love champions rather than covets. It supports and cheers on the beloved. Love is too big to make room for unhealthy competition or feelings of inadequacy. Love does not leave space for jealousy.
Love does not boast. It is not proud. Love is never for show or appearances. Love is not narcissistic. You must love yourself well to love others well, but love also requires humility. Love draws a line between selfish and self care and stays on the virtuous side of things.
Love does not dishonor others. It is not self-seeking. It isn’t blind. It sees the person—not an objectified being.
Love is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love’s fuse is long. It doesn’t keep score. It is not a game or a debate. It is a perpetual blank slate. Love isn’t bogged down by minor annoyances. Love knows how to forgive. It isn’t volatile or quick to punish.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. There is no room for lies in love. It is not lust or infatuation. Love is honest and pure. It cannot be built on façades or illusions.
Love always protects. True love is powerful enough to be disarming. It softens hearts, opens doors, and makes peace a possibility. True love saves lives. It defends and it fights.
Love always trusts. Because love’s foundation is deep and solid, it can withstand the full weight of life. Love grows more secure, but lust evaporates with time. You can draw confidence from love. It erases insecurities and doubts.
Love always hopes. Love is transforming, because it sees both reality and possibility. The present is always enough, but love still dreams.
Love always perseveres. Regardless of the obstacles blocking its path, true love survives. Love doesn’t quit. It grows stronger with each test. Love persists. Love commits.
Love never fails. Period. It isn’t as fickle as a feeling or as transient as an attraction. When it comes to the hard work of relationship maintenance, love is both the means and the inspiration.
Love is love, and love in the right direction (the correct application of affection) is good. Let’s not water it down with frivolities or fleeting feelings. Let’s not be so in love with the idea of love that we drop its name insincerely. Let’s use the word correctly.
Let’s keep love true and give it the effort and attention it necessitates. And let’s not just talk about love, let’s live it and mean it.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:13