Everyone wants to know: What is love?

February 2nd, 2015

Perhaps this is old news to you, but I learned today that “What is love?” was the third-highest-ranked “what is” question asked by Google searchers in 2014. It followed behind “What is Ebola?” and “What is ALS?”

Given the crazy viral spread of the ALS ice bucket challenge and the media’s fear-mongering frenzy over the Ebola epidemic, I can see how these searches ended up in the top two slots. But I was truly, pleasantly surprised to discover how so many people wanted to deepen their understanding of love.

Here’s another thing I learned from Google’s review of questions asked in 2014. Even though many of us were irrationally scared of dying from Ebola, the topic “how to kiss” was Googled more times than any other activity, including “how to survive.”

This suggests two things to me. First, I may need to revise the order in my earlier article,“Humanity’s Top Five Searches.” Second, it’s another reminder of just how much time teenagers spend on the internet!

Now, I am a person who takes pride in my openness to new ideas and my willingness to push the envelope. But today, at the risk of sounding old-fashioned, I’m going to make a suggestion to everyone out there searching for an answer to the question “What is love?” (I’ll leave others to address the topic of kissing.)

Here’s my suggestion: Go ahead and ask Google whatever you want, but as you research love, don’t forget to tap into that ancient trove of wisdom we Christians call the Bible, because there is some great stuff in there. Or better yet, use Google to ask what the Bible says love is.

When I did that today, the top result was a link to the Open Bible topic page for “love is,” which displays a list of dozens of Bible quotes, ranked by users as to their helpfulness. At the top of the list (no surprise) is 1 Corinthians 13.

As a former pastor in a college town who performed more than my fair share of weddings, I know this is an overused passage. But just because it’s become cliche doesn’t mean it’s not true. The apostle Paul had his faults. He was irritable and cantankerous and argumentative, but he was also spot-on when it came to teaching others about love. Love is patient and kind and all those other qualities Paul lists. It is the greatest of all virtues.

The best thing about the Bible is that it teaches us so much about love beyond mere romance. It teaches us to sacrifice for our friends, to love our neighbors, even our enemies. And ultimately, all of these activities help us to grow closer in our love toward — and understanding of — God.

So, if you’re one of the millions out there searching for answers to that timeless question, why not start with a timeless source? Whether you’re a teenager, a parent, single, married or somewhere in between, it is good and right to spend time on this question. And if you are a teacher or a pastor or hold some other position that guides people in their learning, remember that a better understanding of love will always be relevant to the lives of those you serve. It’s more than last year’s fad. Google may helpfully remind us of love’s importance, but thankfully, we don’t need an Internet connection to learn how love works. We have each other, and we have the collected wisdom of our most ancient traditions.

You can see more of Courtney's work at CourtneyTBall.com, or sign up to receive his weekly email, “Life and Depth.”

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