Those of us “of a certain age” will remember the title of this Tina Turner classic song and maybe even recall belting out the words with a group of friends while cruising in our cars with the windows rolled down. (Guess you can tell that this was me.) But the lyrics of this song of soul don’t even come close to answering the question. Now that I am all grown up, well mostly, it is now on my mind daily as I am seeking a more contemplative path. What has love got to do with it?
God Is Love
As long as I am strolling down memory lane, I will also share a memory of the Methodist Church Vacation Bible School where we sloppily painted little plaster wall hangings, which bore lush roses and the words “God is Love.” Why that is such a vivid memory eludes me completely. However, I can recall this little plaque and its words with no problem.
At the time I remember thinking that I wasn’t quite sure why both of the words “God” and “Love” were on this little plaque since I had never heard them spoken in the same breath or even illustrated anywhere in my church life, home life or social life. God is Love? How can a feeling and the Supreme Being of my Sunday school class be one and the same? What’s love got to do with God?
Love Is More Than a Feeling
Fast forward a decade or two (or more), and I think I that I might finally be circling in on an answer. Unity’s first principle teaches that there is “One Power and One Presence active in the Universe and in my life, God the Good, Omnipotent.” Yes, we hear this; however, nary a mention of Love in Unity Principle #1. We look elsewhere for that. We also learn that while God is all there is, there is nothing but God present in our lives. And yes, we can assimilate, feel and believe this.
But where does the “feeling” of love enter the picture? Or could it be much more than a feeling? The word “love” is mentioned 310 times in the King James Version of the Bible and is woven into stories in several different forms. There are four forms of love illustrated in the history and teachings in the Bible. Eros (erotic love as in Song of Solomon), Storge (familial love as in the story of Noah), Philia (deep friendship as between the disciples), and Agape (unconditional love of God for his beloved children) are the four flavors of love, each with varying degrees of intensity. But we are also told that GOD IS LOVE (1 John 4:8). Not just a feeling any longer.
Whoever Abides in Love, Abides in God
This is a game changer. Our greatest teacher, Jesus the Christ, has instructed us to love each other, to love God and to know that God IS love. If that isn’t enough to get our attention, we also learn in 1 John 4:16 that “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” Pretty clear, isn’t it?
Therefore, if love is much more than an emotion, but IS and exists and has evidence of being, we have no doubt that God is Love. Putting two and two together then we can know absolutely that there is only one power and one presence in our lives and in our universe, God the Good, and therefore the one power and one presence that exists in our lives is also LOVE. And that this unconditional, absolute love is us, is in us and expresses as us through our authentic, true selves. I also believe this to be true.
If It Weren’t for That Darned Ego
Now this might be a hard one to know and feel and embody. If God (love) is all there is, why is there still anger, unrest, killing and all the rest that emblazons the news broadcasts? Could it be that our false “ego” selves might be doing some sneaking into the world to hijack the true love that is the reality of who God is, and by extension, who we are? I also believe this to be true.
We are spiritual beings (created in love) who occupy physical bodies provided for us as vehicles. In these we can express and model the love of God in our world as well as some darker attributes. The kicker is that we have free will and choices in how we demonstrate the gifts that are ours to have, live and share. We can believe and embrace what is our gift and our purpose (LOVE), or we can be overcome by that darn protective ego, which serves to keep us safe yet cloud the reality of who we really have come here to be (love).
Love Has Everything To Do With It
We come into the world equipped with a large cranial nerve called the vagus nerve, which links our hearts and our brains and runs both ways. The management and processing of emotions happens via the vagus nerve between the heart, brain and gut. This is why we have a strong gut reaction to intense mental and emotional states. We can primarily live from our heart, which transmits an emotional intelligence to the brain, or we can live in our egoic brain, which largely sends fear-based stimuli to the heart. Which is it?
As students of Unity teachings and New Thought, we strive to live wholeheartedly. We look to those teachers, mystics, poets and scholars who came before us for their words and insights into the power of love. But the choice is still ours as to whether, and how, we express that power.
We can live a life where we know that God IS love, and that it is a gift to move, breathe and be in that power and presence. Or we can simply exist and hide from our true nature, burying it under layers of ego-driven stimuli. Either way, it is our choice to love or not to love. But at the end of the day, we should be able to answer that initial question. What’s love got to do with it? Everything.