By Alan Bailey

Is love just biology?

Digging deeper reveals why romantic love cannot be a mirage

The Greatest Thing in the World

HENRY DRUMMOND entitled his famous book of a century ago The Greatest Thing in the World. It was all about love. Now look what has happened! The world around us has tried to reduce love to mere biology. Some writers say love is simply a decision to care and that romance is a mirage.

I respond, "Let them speak for themselves, but not for me." Nor for many millions who down through history have recognised love to be a 'many splendoured thing' not to be reduced or explained away. Think of the literature, the works of art, the songs, the epics of heroism and tragedy that have revolved around this powerful subject, so difficult to define.

It is fundamental to understand that love exists in the plural. There are at least four definitions of love and we must discern the differences because, otherwise, there is confusion.

This commonest of loves surrounds us every day. It is the affection shown by members of families; parents for children; children for parents and for each other. It reaches the extended family and household pets.

This love occurs naturally but it cannot solve all problems.

Much of what we know as friendship could not be described as love. But there are examples of enjoyable bonding that is recognisable as love. Two people see the same truths and become attached. Nothing physical is implied. It seems simply to happen rather than being caused.

This love is the famous one and has had a more powerful influence over human experience than almost anything else. Yet we can't say whether it has caused more happiness than unhappiness. Who knows? It is about two persons being drawn to each other, with all the mystery of personhood being involved. It can be a glorious intertwining of two souls in the wonders of life.

The first three loves are natural. This one is so very different because it is God's. Our love is always tainted with our selfishness. God's love is pure. We see worth and merit in the objects of our love. God loves the unattractive and unlovely – even those who hate Him. This is the love that brought Jesus to earth to identify with our sufferings and to die on the cross in our place. Then, for those who receive Him as Saviour, there is blessing and joy to follow which will never end. This eternal love is 'The Greatest Thing in the World'.

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