Neuroscience of Love
Love (Greek – ἀγάπη – pronounced ah-gah-pey)
To understand what it is to love another, we need to understand what something is for ourselves. This is the most basic element of empathy. Love begins in empathy. Unless we can enter into the emotional reality of others, there is no room for love. Allowing yourself to be affected by another person tears down the wall that has kept you separated. We discover in our connection that the other and ourselves are, in fact, one and the same.
Jesus said that the law and prophets hung on the Great Commandment that we are to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. We are also to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37–40). From this starting point, we surrender to God. In our surrender, we commit ourselves to love others as we commit to loving ourselves. We are engaged in God’s mission of bringing the entirety of reality into the will of God. In the gospels, Jesus is quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5, which says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and ֵל ָבב with all your might.” The word translated as heart is from (Strong’s #3824). This word means both heart and mind, though it is generally only translated as heart. Our mind, body, spirit, and will are one, and are not to be separated. The word translated as might is Strong’s #3966). Its meaning is also rich. It means might, but( ְמ ֹאד also strength or even our very suchness. Suchness might seem a strange concept, but it signifies our very being. We are to love God, self, and neighbor with our very being. This is far more than mental acceptance. It is being transformed into new life. Entering this place of connection changes us. We are moved from one mindset to another.
This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Blessed are the pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8). When our hearts and minds are geared toward love, then we see and know love. Love becomes our guidepost and lens for the world. For God is love. Another example is from Luke 17:21 when Jesus said that the kingdom of God is within (ἐντός) you. Within us is the hardwiring for love.
Below are five primary ways that God’s reign of love is hardwired into our very being. These biological processes are strengthened through love toward God, our neighbors, and ourselves.