In our local newspaper (Mattoon-Charleston News-Gazette) there is a news brief/advertisement for an interfaith discussion in regard to the power of faith to heal. This sounds pleasant, but I have heard such nebulous titles before and have noticed there is a continuation of such topics in a nebulous sort of answering. The questions posed and to be addressed on this occasion are the following:

  1. What kind of love has the power to heal us – mind, body, and spirit?
  2. What did Jesus teach about the power of love to heal?
  3. How have you seen love heal tough issues in human experience – bodily, emotionally, socially, politically?
  4. How do we welcome more of the healing power of love into our lives on a daily basis?
  5. What if we are unwilling or unable to love others or open up to the power of love to heal?

I desire, in this essay, to address these questions. First, however, there needs to be clarity of understanding with the use of the word “love.” Exactly what does one mean when the word “love” is used in a sentence? If we use the standard of God to help us understand love, then we have a starting point to address the questions. Let us use John 3:16, “For God so loved the world…” The word “love” means what in this passage? If we use the English dictionary we come away with this understanding (when used in the noun form): a strong affection for another, a warm attachment, an object of attachment, devotion, and finally, unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another (there are actually nine definitions, but only the first four did I make use of).[1] Will this give us clarity of understanding? If we apply the first three English ideas of love to John 3:16, we can say that it helps, but I don’t think clarity is in view. We still don’t know what love means, we only know that the Lord has an attachment to His creation.

If we make use of the fourth definition, however, and couple this with a dictionary based on New Testament Greek we learn this: “A biblical definition of love starts with God, never us…”[2] Using this as our starting point we learn that God always manifests His love toward man by seeking that which is good for man. What does that mean when we say that God seeks man’s good? When we read John 3:16 we learn that God manifested His love toward man by seeking that which is good for man; He sent His Son to teach us to deny ungodliness and live soberly, righteously, and godly in this world (Titus 2:11-12).

Note the clarity of understanding. We know that love is more than an attachment, warm affection, and even devotion. We now understand that love acts in a particular way, and is not necessarily tied to affection or emotion (though it can be).

Without this starting point there is no solution to the problems of our world, and neither is there a substantive answer to the various questions that are asked (and we will answer in our next post).

[1] Merriam Webster’s Deluxe Dictionary, Tenth Collegiate Edition, Readers Digest Edition, 1998, p. 1086

[2] Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Zondervan, 2006, p. 427