What is Love?


I want to start with a question that appeared as the title of a song that was in the music charts some years ago.  Some of you may be old enough to remember; it asked - ‘What is this thing called love’

This question may seem to be over simple to some, but I’ve learned from experience that it’s wrong for me to assume that people know things that they don’t.

For example, I remember some years ago having a long conversation with a prison inmate trying to explain to him just what ‘love’ is.  He had initiated the discussion by saying that he was confused in his understanding of the word.  He used to think that 'love' was all to do with sex and that he had recently become puzzled when he heard Christians talking about ‘loving one another’ where the word must obviously mean something else.

Our conversation explored his childhood experiences and it became clear to me that his parents had grossly misused the word ‘love’.  He had been brought up to treat ‘love’ as some sort of commodity, a bit like money, something to be earned by good behaviour or the doing of favours.  Some of you reading may remember hearing for yourself when you were a child such phrases as “I won’t love you anymore unless you do as you are told”.  Such bargaining develops into an ‘I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine’ kind of mentality, or in other words a false kind of ‘love’ that only responds to some previously set conditions.

We made progress in the guy’s understanding when we talked about the times when he had visited his Grandparents.  He said that he always felt happy with them because, in his words, “They let me be me, they didn’t make any demands upon me or have any false expectations that I had to live up to”.  A real breakthrough occurred when I explained and he realised that the warm happy feeling he felt in his heart at his Grandparents was an experience of receiving ‘love’.

From this point on I was then able to explain that God looks upon us and loves us in the same way.  God always 'separates the sin from the sinner’ and, although we often do things that he doesn’t like, he still loves each and every one of us.  His love, just like those Grandparents, has no strings attached.

In Chapter 13 of St Paul’s first letter to the Christians at Corinth he wrote this – “Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude.  Love does not demand its own way.  It is not irritable or touchy.  It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong.  It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out.  If you love somebody you will be loyal to them no matter what the cost.  You will always believe in them, always expect the best of them and always stand your ground in defending them”.

You know, whenever I read that passage it’s quite clear to me to that the love that God offers me makes no demands on me and yet at the same time I realise that my love for other people falls well short of how it should be.  If I re-read that passage, using my own name in place of the word ‘love’, it sounds like this.  “Ken is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty, selfish or rude.  Ken does not demand his own way…”   Hummmmm?.   You see, I can’t get very far before I’m too ashamed to carry on.  How about you who are reading this? - Try it for yourself using your own name.

The Good News however is that when we put the name of Jesus in there we get a perfect description of the Son of God who loved us enough to come and live among us and take the punishment we each deserve for the sins we have committed.  He died on the cross in place of us and showed us in a very real way what he meant when he said - “Love one another as I have loved you, and here is how to measure it – the greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends” (John Ch 15 : 12 &13 Living Bible)

You who are reading this, are you a friend of Jesus?  He wants to be a friend of yours.  He died for you whether you believe it or not and he separates the things that you’ve done wrong from the person he knows you can become.  To become his friend all you need to do is admit that you’ve come unstuck by going your own way in this world and that you are reaping what you’ve sown.  If you can admit to Jesus that you are sorry then you can have a fresh start.

If you want to do so the please join me in this closing prayer –

Dear Jesus please forgive me all the wrong things that I’ve done in the past, soften my heart and enter in and remove the hardness and pride that’s in there.  Make a clean place inside me for your love to dwell and then show me how to live under your guidance in the future.  Amen.


Contents are © Copyright 2006 Ken Mainey

Taken from www.jesuslovesprisoners.co.uk or www.jesusrenewsprisoners.co.uk