Think about those people you feel you deeply love- and those that express that they love you. Now make a mental list of the things that confirm for you that this is real love. In short- how do you define love?
Nothing Without Love
God shows us clearly that love should define us and all that we do. In 1 Corinthians 13, it is clear that even if we have the greatest gifts and abilities to serve others, the strongest faith, the deepest knowledge- if we don’t have love- we are nothing. You’d think it would be valiant to give away everything we have. But without love, it is an empty action with no reward. I’ve noticed with great pain through the years that I can do many good things out of either selfishness and pride OR out of love. The difference? Just the bent, the focus, the attitude of my heart.
1 Corinthians 13:1-2 “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.”
God Defines Love
In the passage, God immediately goes on to define love.
“4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never ends.”
Did you catch that? Love is free of selfishness. It is free of pride. It is committed. It doesn’t interpret another person’s actions negatively, but rather chooses to believe the best about them. It always hopes. It doesn’t make a critical judgment and write people off. It isn’t flaky. It endures a lot of difficult.
I’ve recently been hit in the face with society’s definition of love. People with gaping, gnawing holes in their soul thinking another person can fill their need. The result is a relationship in which that person strives, seeks, even manipulates to get their need filled- all the while thinking it is love. People spouse hopping to try to find someone who can meet their needs the best, making marriage into a self-serving rather than a sacrificially-loving institution. People even using the term “love” in situations of pure lust.
Call it what it is, but don’t call it love. It isn’t.
And it makes me deeply sad to see people hurting themselves and others, striving after a lie, and coming up empty.
Many things can satisfy for a short time. If you’re chasing after a selfish sort of temporary fulfillment (if you’re honest with yourself), you have probably already realized that this will leave you with a gnawing emptiness, a painful longing every time.
There is an alternative. It starts with the One who Is Love, who is ever calling to you.
God IS Love
To know what love is supposed to be, we don’t have to look further than God Himself. Love is not just a part of His character. God IS Love.
1 John 4:7-12 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
Love in the Bible
God uses a number of different words for love in the Bible. They each add depth of meaning to the concept.
- Ahab: intensely close emotional bonds
- Agapao: choice to unconditionally love and seek the good of another (not based on anything that person could do to earn it)
- Agape: sacrificial, committed love that is an act of the will and is characterized by deep appreciation and high regard (This is the one used in the 1 John verses above)
- Phileo: loving someone like a friend, with affection and personal attachment
- Philadelphia: loving someone like a brother or sister
For more on these words and verses that use them, check out This Great Article.
My challenge to myself and you is: “Pursue Love.” -Not pursue love from others, but pursue love through your own life. Strive to let your life be marked by love. That you reflect God.
Love in marriage is not be be 50/50, with one spouse giving 50% and the other giving 50%, Both are to give 100% to the other. Sacrificially. Committedly.
Our love for spouses, children, the Church, family, friends, acquaintances, and others should be selfless, committed, sacrificial, forgiving. Love is costly. Perhaps that is why people seek options that fall short of love. They demand less. And they return emptiness and hurt.
I find it is easy to be selfish. It is easy to feel others should meet your needs and blame our sorrows on others’ neglect. But it isn’t wise. Wisdom is to know God. To revel in His love, and then to love Him back. A large part of that is by loving others well.
People Perceive Love Differently
I have appreciated through the years understanding that each person is different and perceives the world differently. In the lens of difference, we must also recognize that people perceive love differently. Some people feel loved when someone encourages and affirms them. Others feel loved when someone spends time with them without words. Others feel loved when someone washes the dishes or fixes the sink. Gary Chapman outlines 5 Love Languages that are helpful to be aware of. Seek to love those in your world in the way they perceive love (rather than the way you most naturally extend it).
Sip Life Slowly and Enjoy It
This blog is all about helping you engage meaningfully in the relationships that matter to you. It is about helping you really connect to others with your whole soul- not just the broken pieces you have left over. It is about appropriately celebrating and delighting in the major and minuscule things of life.