When the word “love” can mean anything, how can we understand the most important of all the commands?
Jesus said that the whole law and all the prophets could be summarized in only two commandments:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and
“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39)
But what does Jesus mean when he asks us to love other people?
For nearly two centuries in the West, the word “love” has carried strongly romantic connotations. In the last few decades, Americans have used the word to express virtually any desire or positive emotion.
L.J. White, writing on the website, Revistainterforum.com, offers wise perspectives as a person whose first language is Spanish.
In Spanish, White writes, the word “amor” has very specific meaning. In English, to the contrary, the word “love” is used for a wide range of meanings.
In English, ‘The Word Love is Desecrated’
English-speaking countries use the word “love” quite loosely, giving little thought to the real meaning or proper application of this word. I often hear statements such as, ” I love going to the beach”, ” I love my new car ” or ” I’d love to have an ice-cream”.
I constantly hear people say they love inanimate objects like cars, trains and planes. Well, although I guess it is within the realm of possibilities to love an automobile, a more suitable verb can be used such as enjoy, like, cherish, etc. …
I Love Hamburgers, I’d Love to See Her Fired
“I’d love to see him fired” … love just instantly turned to hate, no problem. How’s that for “warping” values? We are constantly and usually unaware of the countless times the word “love” is desecrated.
White wonders if it is not impossible to relimit the meaning of a word that has been so widely misused. Still, it would be easier to understand Jesus and to do what He says if we knew that “love” means:
“The feeling of fulfillment experienced by a voluntary act of kindness without expectations of material or emotional gain.”
Love, Compassion, or Kindness?
I suspect that one reason so many educated Americans are inclining to Buddhism is for this very semantic reason. Buddhism trains people to practice “compassion” and “kindness.” Those are words we understand. Smart people don’t want to waste time trying to figure out what other people are talking about when those people don’t know the meaning of their own words.
“What’s love got to do with it?” Everything. But we have to know what love is first.
Coming up: “How can you love others if you don’t love yourself?”