Definitions of love can be varied and many

In a few days, we will be celebrating our first anniversary as a new married couple and a new family. We believe we have come together because of love.

Have you ever thought of how the word love is really used? Why do we use the word “love” in tennis? If you’ve scored love, you’ve scored zero. According to Dr. Frederick C. Mish, a one-time editorial director of G.&C. Merriam Co., the word “love” used in scoring tennis is etymologically the same as our ordinary “love” meaning “affection.”

Since the 17th century, the phrase “for love” has been used to mean “for nothing, for no stakes,” according to Mish. From this, love developed the meaning “no score.” The word was so used in card playing as early as the 18th century.

Consider whether the following three statements are true or false:

¯ When love hits, you know it instantly.

¯ When you are in love, you usually are in a daze.

¯ It is easy to distinguish real love from infatuation.

I believe the correct answer to all three questions is false. However, there are many persons who would strongly disagree, though recognizing infatuation as a strong and unreasonable attachment toward someone, they feel they can tell when it’s the real thing.

Such ones often view love as mysterious visitation out of nowhere that takes hold of you. For them, there is no feeling in the world like the sheer ecstasy of falling in love. The couple wants to be together every minute of the day, hardly taking their eyes off each other. Nothing else in life seems important. Each believes that the other is “the one and only.”

Yet, will such emotion forge two lives together for a happy lifetime?

One research survey asked 1,079 young people (ages 18-24) for the number of “romantic experiences” in their life up to the present. The average was seven. Researcher Dr. William Kephart stated that “respondents invariably described their current experience as love rather than infatuation, the latter term usually being used in the past tense.”

Yes, during a romance, it was viewed as “love,” but past experiences were recognized as infatuation — a passing, fading emotion. However, during those past experiences, what do you think these young people would have called it? Only by looking back did they realize it was infatuation. This illustrates how unreliable our hearts can be! The trickery of the heart can be clearly seen by examining today’s spiraling divorce rate. Nearly half of 69,000 couples surveyed who were divorcing from a first marriage had separated before their fourth wedding anniversary. Almost 8,000 — 12 percent — separated during the first year. And some consider infatuation as a chief cause for this high divorce rate.

“It lures unsuspecting men and women into poor marriages like lambs to the slaughter,” says Ray Short in his book “Sex, Love or Infatuation.” Infatuation is self-centered and short-lived. In contrast, genuine love is unselfish, self-giving and self-sacrificing. It stands the test of time.

Most of us are romantics at heart. We all enjoy a good love story. But have you ever stopped to ask what is the greatest love story of all time?

Perhaps, you think of the classical love story of Anthony and Cleopatra in the glorious days of the beginning of the Roman Empire. Cleopatra had become queen of Egypt at age 17. But she was soon deposed of all authority and banished. When Julius Caesar obtained victory over the Ptolemies, he placed Cleopatra back on the throne and took her to Rome as his mistress. All the empire seemed to lie at her feet. But after the assassination of Caesar, she fled back to Egypt. Allying herself with Mark Anthony, she then became his mistress. The Roman triumvirate soon was dominated by Octavius, who was to become Augustus Caesar. In 31 B.C. Augustus defeated Anthony in the battle of Actium, establishing himself as the first great emperor of a kingdom that would last almost 500 years.

Under pretext of granting Cleopatra power in Egypt, Augustus persuaded her to assassinate Anthony. Believing the love Cleopatra had for him was genuine, Anthony yielded to Cleopatra’s desire to commit suicide in a grand mausoleum she had constructed that “they might die together.” Only Cleopatra had no plan to commit suicide. The unsuspecting Anthony died, leaving Cleopatra to seek power from Augustus.

Augustus, however, refused to yield to the charms of the beautiful Cleopatra. He ended her life by putting a poisonous viper in her bosom — at least that’s how the story goes. Ah, the pathos of ancient love stories!

Or maybe you can recall the story of Helen of Troy. She was so alluring, she is remembered as “the face that launched a thousand ships.” As the story is told, the beautiful Helen ran off with the king of Sparta. The jealous and enraged Greek king led an expedition to recapture his wife.

You probably will remember the final battle of that famous Trojan War. It seemed to have come to an end when the Greeks withdrew leaving behind a crude wooden horse. Inside the horse were concealed Greek Warriors who, after the horse was brought within the city walls, opened the horse late at night. The unsuspecting Trojans were routed. No clear tradition explains what became of beautiful Helen over whom the war was fought.

Then there was the mythological story of Venus, who fell in love with the handsome young Adonis. But Mars, the god of war, was in love with Venus. He sent a wild boar to kill Adonis.

Pathos and tragedy accompany so many of these love stories from so long ago.

The greatest love story of all is all wrapped up in John 3:16 — an ocean of truth in a drop of language. God the Father demonstrated his love for the lost human race when he gave his best — his only begotten Son. The Son demonstrated that same universal love when he willingly gave himself on the cross to accomplish redemption.

May we all become living examples of what real love is to our family, community and world.

(Cummings is pastor at Bethlehem Apostolic Temple in Wheeling and Shiloh Apostolic Faith Assembly in Weirton.)

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