We all have heard it said that God is love. Yes, God is the epitome of love. God is the fount from which love flows, the source of all that is right and good and pure in our hearts. 1John 4:8 says “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” Later in the same chapter, verse 16 says “…God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” So, it stands to reason that if one does not know love, one cannot know God. Furthermore, love, in Sacred Scripture, is extremely important. We all know what 1Corinthians chapter 13 has to say about this. Paraphrasing, we can have all the talents and materials in the world, but without love, we gain nothing.
However, I would contend that the definition of love has gotten very loose these days. Love means different things to different people. One person’s definition of love may be another’s infatuation, or even lust. I feel that love is more a commitment to the best interests of another, even when contrary to our own best interests, than it is an emotion. However, romantic love is definitely a manifestation of divine love, when kept in the proper context.
My point here is more about what “love” has become in our culture. Love, in the current sense of the word, is worshipped. It has truly become a god. It is pursued above all other goals in most people’s lives. It is held as the perfect state of happiness. If you are in love, then nothing else matters, right? If you don’t have love, then all your other accomplishments and goals are somehow unimportant and tainted. And while I would agree with these sentiments when considering love in the sense of commitment to the best interests of others, as spoken of in Corinthians, that’s not the type of love most worship.
The love that is worshipped today is mostly the selfish pursuit of sexual pleasure. Listen to current pop music. Watch a few movies. Worse yet, watch some evening television. The majority of themes center on sex, and purely as a pursuit of pleasure and not in the strengthening of a long-term relationship. God forbid it be done in the context of procreating a family.
Popular culture focusing on love is nothing new. Music from the 40s and 50s is filled with references to love. Shakespearean plays, even ancient Roman and Greek writings, have love as a common theme. But love has changed. The older concept, though sometimes outside the bonds of marriage, was a long-term romantic devotion, embracing a larger sense of self with a sacrificial devotion to one true mate. Not so with most of today’s love references. It’s all about self-gratification, fulfilling one’s physical needs. If it is a carnal desire, it must be fulfilled, regardless of previous social norms or consequences for others.
Why does this matter? So what if our definition of love has shifted, and our worship of it deepened? Because this is who we are. We are what we worship. We become what we glorify. This is why God, in His infinite wisdom, asks us to worship Him. God doesn’t need our worship, though he desires it, for our good. We are the ones who need it. He knows that without it, we fall into worshipping that which is less than holy. What we value most in ourselves currently is little more than our animalistic nature. That which sets us apart from all other creation, our ability to reason, and our ability to love in the highest sense of the word, is being exchanged for what makes us feel good. The “better angels of our nature”, as Abraham Lincoln put it, are rapidly being supplanted by selfish demons we have possessed since the Stone Age, and have worked for millennia to control.
Lord, have mercy.