Recent research on the science of love, defined in this article as “when the happiness, security, and well-being of another person is as real or more to you than your own,” suggests strong positive emotional, social, and physical benefits for those who love others. There appears to be a correlation between loving others and deeper friendships, better health, and a more meaningful life.
This research supports what Christianity has been insisting for centuries: those who are centered outside themselves and love others live more meaningful and joyful lives. Pastors can use this research to to encourage partnerships in the community and spur congregants to carry out concrete acts of love in their communities and workplaces.
“Creative love is thus our purpose in life and constitutes the image of God within us.”
What to Consider
- Is there a relationship between loving others and living a meaning-filled life? How have you seen or not seen this connection in your life experiences?
- Can you think of a time when you loved others in concrete ways? Can you think of a time when others have loved you in concrete ways? What were the short term and long term effects of these experiences?
- What is the relationship between the love of God and loving others?
- The article’s author weaves together strands from Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism in his discussion and definition of love. What is the relationship between a Christian understanding of love and how love is understood in other religions? What are some similarities? What are some differences? How much should the definition of love found in other religions influence our understanding of love as Christians?
How to Go Deeper
- Read Luke 10:25-37 and, in light of this research on love, consider the story of the Good Samaritan–specifically, the ways that the loving act of the Samaritan may have produced hope and joy within both the Samaritan and the hurt man. Offer analogous examples of acts of love in your community and invite congregants to imagine ways to concretely love others in their lives.
- Read Psalm 139. Using another definition of love from the article–as “a Creative Presence underlying all of reality”–make connections between the intimate way God loves us (as found in this psalm) and the act of loving others. 1 John 4:19 or similar scriptures might be useful for making these connections. Challenge congregants to contemplate how they have experienced God’s love and how that might be channeled into concrete acts of love for others.
- Using parts of the Old Testament Law (such as Leviticus 19:9-18 or Exodus 20:1-20), consider the emphasis on loving one’s neighbor in the Old Testament Israelite community. Then, compare the Law to the teachings of Jesus (such as Matthew 5-7 or Luke 6) in regards to loving others and explore the contextual differences that might have lead to the different ways people were instructed to love others. Share this research and offer some concrete ideas about ways to love others in your community. If possible, split congregants into small groups to generate their own ideas.
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