God has given mankind marvelous abilities. Think of the great scientists and philosophers who have probed the mysteries of life; and the poets, novelists, and musicians who have expressed the depth of human experience in compelling ways. Nor is it any less marvelous that our imagination can take ideas presented merely in words and can transform them into deep emotions of excitement, surprise, grief, and joy.
It has been suggested that the unique ability to form conceptual ideas and to express them in speech separates mankind from all lower creatures by a chasm that no evolutionary process could ever span. While that is true, there is another capacity which separates man even further from animals. Paul explained it thus: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” (1 Corinthians:13:1). To put it in a contemporary context, without love man is a robot, a computer programmed to meaningless reactions. In a word, it is love that makes a human being.
Without love, Paul reminds us, we are nothing. That “nothing” doesn’t mean that we don’t exist, but that we are not what we were intended to be by our Creator. We are not fully human without love, no matter how much knowledge we have or how clever we are. It should be clear why this is the case. We are made in the image of God, who, speaking of Himself, has said “God is love.” Thus the very essence of the Creator who made man in His image must be the essence of man the creature. And it is in the perversion of that essence that we have ample proof that something went horribly wrong.