There is no greater virtue than love and no greater life-defining moral constant. From where did love originate?
If there is no God, then love has not always been a virtue. However, love has always been a virtue. Therefore, God is.
The Origin of Love
The virtue of love can only have three possible sources: (1) Love came from a survival instinct and lacks free-will. (2) People invented the concept of love that became embedded in human nature. (3) Love is the ultimate purpose of humanity and love is embedded in humankind. If love is a constant virtue, then love could not come from instinct or society. As a constant virtue, love cannot exist with a person to possess love. Therefore, there must exist a constant Person who must also exist as the means of love within humanity.
Do people love one another from instinct or as a social construct? Is humankind greater than love if people created it? Is love greater than humanity because as an instinct love rules over free-will? By what source, do people love others — survival instinct, human invention, or divine nature?
The argument of this article is: If God does not live, then either love originated from survival instinct, social construct, or both. However, love could not have originate from instinct or human invention. Therefore, God lives. Furthermore, love must have always existed within the Creator’s divine nature.
The moral argument answers this dilemma in disjunctive syllogism:
1) Either God exists or love is not a constant virtue.
2) Love is a constant virtue.
3) Therefore, God exists.
Likewise, a similar argument in modus tollens:
1) If there is no God, then love has not always been a virtue.
2) Love has always been a virtue.
3) Therefore, God is.
The Necessity for the Existence of Love
What is the virtue of love without personality? Virtue cannot exist without the person who possesses eternal love. By accepting that love is humanity’s eternal purpose, there must exist the Person(s) who eternally possesses love. Therefore, believers worship the eternal Person(s) who is love and who created humankind in His likeness for this purpose. This person is God. Is this the triune God of the Christian faith so that God as three persons possesses love?
People know God’s love through God. “God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” (Rom 5:8). God’s love is unconditional. Sin cannot hinder God’s love. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). God’s love is far greater than any other and sufficient that no other love is comparable to God’s love. For the Christian, God’s love is the primary focus over any person’s love. The Christian receives the love of those who reflect the unconditional love of God. Paul professed,
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:37–39)
Contrast God who is love with humankind’s lack of love and abundance of hate. Do people need a Savior to rescue them from such failure? Are all guilty of acting contrary to love and God’s eternal purpose for humanity?
God’s nature defines love. Anyone can observe molecular machines through a microscope or see the grand order of the cosmos through a telescope, and yet that person could miss the virtue of love. Love is the virtue of God. Love is the epitome of morality. “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13).
The Meaning of Love
Can people learn the full definition of love through secular or materialistic means? All of the Christian Scriptures start and finish with love. These inspired writers intended all commands from love even those instructions that people do not like. Every page of the sacred text teaches mercy, compassion, warning, correction, and even justice from love. Justice and correction must come from love. Jesus said, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (Rev 3:19).
The more people learn about God, then the more they learn how to love! There will come movements, ideologies, and sects claiming to know love. However, there is only one faith established upon love, and that faith is in the words and life of Jesus Christ. There is only one religion that has the central focus of love as God’s virtue (Jas 1:26–27). Consider these inspired words:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Cor 13:4–8a)
The Need for Greater Love
The need for sacrificial love is great. Humankind’s neglect of merciful compassionate and forgiving love has left humanity with suffering from the beginning. Jesus Christ lived the life that defines love. Jesus taught that God forgave humanity’s great sins so that all may forgive others of sins (Matt 18:21–35). Jesus declared in John 15:12–13, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Who would die for love?
The message of the Christian faith is love. Every teaching and good deed is unto this message (1 Cor 13:1–3). Therefore, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:8–9). Furthermore, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim 1:5), and the instruction to “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 1:13). Christians gather for this reason “to stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb 10:24).
The Means of Loving God
Loving Christ means loving others unconditionally, and loving others means observing all of Christ’s commands (Matt 28:20). Christ’s Spirit teaches, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2–3). Christians love others by loving God by obeying Him. Love fulfills the Law:
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Rom 13:8–10)
By knowing God, believers love Him. Therefore,
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. (1 John 2:3–5)
God defines love, because He is the standard. Jesus declared in John 14:21a, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me,” and in John 14:23–24a, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”
The Blessings of Divine Love
How can anyone become convinced of such love and not become a disciple of Christ? “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins,” (1 Pet 4:8). “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony,” (Col 3:14). Then,
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph 4:15–16)
The first of the fruit of the Spirit is love (Gal 5:22). Therefore,
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! (Gal 5:13–15)
Following Christ via Love
Love is the defining qualification of a Christian. Those who love much are those who see that they are forgiven much (Luke 7:47). That is why people come to Christ. Jesus revealed in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Therefore, by seeing how God has forgiven each person in Jesus Christ, each person may know love through forgiveness and become a disciple of Jesus. While God’s love is unconditional, God grace is conditional for only those who believe, repent, are baptized, and walk in the light receive God’s forgiveness (1 Pet 3:21; 1 John 1:7).
Therefore, Jesus commands love your enemies (Luke 6:27–36). Love without hypocrisy. Furthermore,
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (Rom 12:9–18)
Humanity and the Love of Evil
The apostle Paul revealed to Timothy, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money […] lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people” (2 Tim 3:1–5). People reject the message of Christ’s love, because they love the world (cf. 1 John 2:15–17). They love the flesh, what they see, and their pride. Jesus declared, “people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:18–21).
Can people sacrifice themselves for their own cause to save themselves? Can someone do a good deed without love and therefore actually accomplish kindness?
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor 13:1–3)
What is the point of all of humanity’s giving and service if humankind does so from their own righteousness? Is this not self-righteousness and self-centered?
Christian love is Christ-centered and calls for followers of Christ to imitate Christ by laying down their lives for others. The apostle John declared,
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:16–18)
Love and Salvation
Is love necessary for salvation? Jesus expressed in John 15:12–13, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” These are the words of Jesus the night before he died.
The Gospel is the oldest Christian creed. The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is an act of love (Rom 5:6–11). This is the Gospel that can save humanity (1 Cor 15:1–4). Therefore,
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:4–6)
and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:9–11)
buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses. (Col 2:12–13)
Become conformed to Jesus’s love by being conformed to His death in baptism (Rom 6:1–7). From the baptismal burial with Christ, there is the beginning of the newness of life. Therefore, only believers can realize God’s love. God exists because love is objectively moral.