Love is a beautiful thing. And a difficult thing to define or quantify.
Is it a feeling or an action? Perhaps that’s a false dichotomy. Because if we say it’s a feeling then actions aren’t necessary. My actions could be cruel or mean-spirited but that would not impact at all on whether I love a person or not. But surely how I treat a person cannot be irrelevant to the fact of whether I love that person or not.
And so maybe love must be an action. A verb. But if that’s the case does feeling really play no part? Am I loving my wife when I do something nice for her, buy her flowers, but despise every moment of it and deep in my heart resent her for the money I spent? Surely not.
Paul makes this point in 1 Corinthians 13 when he writes:
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
It is possible to do a great magnanimous deed for another and still not have love. It’s not just action.
Another biblical quote gives us some more insight. This time from John. 1 John 4:9-10:
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
From this verse maybe you’d define love something like: Love is going to whatever lengths are necessary in order to secure the good of the other, even at great cost to yourself; and is particularly seen when the other is un- or ill- deserving.
The cross is God’s great display of love towards his creatures, when at great cost to himself the Son dies on the cross to deal with sin and wrath so that undeserving and ill-deserving creatures might live through him.
There’s something objective about that love. Whether I feel loved by God or not. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. And my feelings of love from God come and go. But God’s demonstration of his love is objective and unchanging. The cross sits in history as a continual signpost.
This is love.