In 1993, the musical artist Haddaway released the song “What Is Love?” on his debut album, The Album. The song, an electronic Eurodance anthem, was a critical success worldwide, becoming a number-one hit in 13 countries and nearing the top of the charts in the United States, Canada, and Australia.
The song itself found its success on the back of its punchy beat, groovy synths, and catchy lyrics, but the title is what solidified it as a ubiquitous classic in the minds of music lovers, even to this day. One can hardly utter the phrase “What is love?” without hearing someone nearby reply with the timeless chorus:
What is love?
Oh baby, don’t hurt me
Don’t hurt me
The song is from the perspective of a man pleading with a woman to stop hurting him by spurning his decidedly passionate drive to show her his undying love. And preceding each time that he asks her to stop hurting him, we hear the titular question, “What is love?”
That is a question that has seemingly befuddled the pop music industry for decades. An overwhelming majority of pop songs are written about love, whether it be a person of romantic interest, a friend, or an object of desire. And yet, nobody can seem to agree on love. At least, that’s what the variety and quantity of love songs in existence would imply. So, is there an objective definition of love? Or an objective example?
As Christians, this may seem easy to answer. Our religious beliefs, standards, and motives are founded not in a philosophy or an ancient text, or even a prayer. While those may all be a part of our tradition, our religion is firmly founded in a person: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is the perfect example of magnanimous virtue and unconditional love, and we see the culmination of this great love in His Passion and Death on the Cross.
How great is His love? God, an infinitely powerful being, humbled Himself and became a man so that He might redeem mankind, a race altogether unworthy of any sort of saving. We hardly need to open our eyes to see the crimes and sins of our species all around us: insatiable greed, uncontrollable lust, anger that fuels violence and murder, and pride that is the root of it all. Who are we that we think we are entitled to anything more than what the Lord has given us? But beyond our transgressions and beyond our mistakes, God sees in us His life. We are His children after all.
How great is His love? He was born into abject poverty, performed miracles to open our eyes to God’s power, taught us how to love, taught us how to pray, and then submitted himself to imprisonment, derision, torture, and death – all the while bearing the weight of our sins.
How great is His love? He loved the Pharisees enough to educate them instead of fighting them. He loved the Romans enough to forgive them instead of condemning them. He loved His friends enough to correct them when they erred. And He did it all because one day, God wants us all to join Him in heaven. That’s how great His love is.
So if that’s love, what is hate?
Hatred is the opposite of everything God ever did for us. God gave us life through creation, enlightenment and fulfillment through Jesus Christ, redemption when He gave His life for us, and a path to everlasting life through the sacraments. Hatred gives us destruction and death, violence and anger, ignorance and pride, despair through living a life for oneself, and an everlasting condemnation to a life without God.
Love is sacrifice and hatred is selfishness. Let me live the way I want. Let me worry about myself and nobody else. Let me go where I want to go. Let me do the things I want to do. Let me be who I want to be. Let me be. If you take the road of selfishness, it won’t be long before you find that everyone has actually “let you be” and you are alone.
Stay with God. Every day, renew your commitment to love. Renew your commitment to serve God through your friends, your family, or perfect strangers who might not yet see the light that they are missing. Treat every interaction as a chance to do apostolate through love and sacrifice.
There are those who will say it is hateful to defend one’s Faith when another would knowingly profane it. They will say it is hateful to hold a religious belief that contradicts the normalization of the moral divergence of society. And they will say that it is hateful to refuse to subvert your virtues and morals by telling the truth. There are people who will call you hateful because you love, but love anyway.
“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans… You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:16-18, 22)