Summary: Believe it or not, love is hard for the world to define. Even psychology and psychiatry have difficulty explaining it. But God doesn’t. Why is that so?
OPEN: A visiting Revivalist was impressed by an older couple in the church where he was holding Revival. The wife seemed to be half-turned toward her husband holding both his hands in hers. Every time he looked toward them he was impressed by the fact they were holding hands.
After the service and remarked, “You 2 are an inspiration. Acting like teenagers in love! You even held hands all through the service.”
The wife, with an exasperated look, retorted, “That’s not love, preacher. It’s the only way I can keep him from cracking his knuckles.”
APPLY: The wife had declared… “That’s not love…”
I. (pause…) Well… what is love?
ILLUS: Years ago, there was a woman named Helen Keller. She had completely lost her sight as a child because her doctor had given her wrong medication. Just 3 months shy of her 7th birthday, she met a woman that changed her life - a teacher named Ann Sullivan.
Helen tells about their 1st meeting:
“The morning after my teacher came she led me into her room and gave me a doll… When I had played with it a little while, Miss Sullivan slowly spelled into my hand the word, D-O-L-L. I was excited when I finally spelled the word myself. And I ran downstairs to show my mother.”
Several days later, Miss Sullivan spilled cold water onto Helen’s hand and THEN spelled out the word W-A-T-E-R. In this way, Helen Keller learned to spell 100s of words.
Then one day Sullivan spelled out the word LOVE in Helen’s hand. Perplexed, Helen spelled back “W-H-A-T I-S L-O-V-E?”
You’d think that as much as people SENSE the need of being loved and TALK about being in love, that there would be an “easy” definition of what love is.
(pause) But apparently there isn’t.
ILLUS: Some time back, there was a book written based upon an extensive study of the topic of love in psychiatry and psychology, and the authors wrote that “in spite of a few remarkable contributions, we can definitely state that love has NOT been the object of much psychological or psychiatric research.
Most of what we know about it comes either from our limited private experiences or from the insights that poets, novelists, playwrights, and artists...
With rare exceptions, in the indexes of most psycho-analytic, psychiatric, and psychological books and textbooks we do not find an entry for the word love.
And even such important cultural media as the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Columbia Encyclopedia has no articles about this subject.”
Why? Why would love be so hard to define?
I believe it is because the psychiatric world wasn’t looking at love as an “objective reality” that could be measured. It was looking at love and seeing an emotion. It was seeing it as a subjective experience that came in different ways to different people. Thus (I suspect) since they couldn’t measure love empirically, they found it hard to study and hard to explain scientifically.
II. And yet God apparently believes that love can be understood, because God made LOVE the law of His Kingdom
James wrote: “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well” (James 2:8)
John wrote: “This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” (1 John 3:11)
Paul wrote: “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)
Peter wrote: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (1 Peter 1:22)
And, of course Jesus said “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:9-12)
And so God commands us to LOVE.
God believes love is definable and measurable and that it can be understood and obeyed.
(pause…) But if God believes this…why would worldly disciplines like psychology and psychiatry have such a difficult time explaining Love?
I suspect there are a couple of reasons:
1st – I don’t believe they think about love the same way God does. To them love is a warm fuzzy feeling you get when you look at a certain someone… a physical attraction for a person or an animal or an object.
AND indeed, a couple yrs ago Scientists showed several people pictures of their loved ones while charting their brain waves with an MRI - and they discovered 4 different parts of the brain literally lit up the screen.