What is love?
It’s shocking how often we get it wrong. And not just one facet of love, but it’s entirety. The way we define it, apply it, seek it, etc.
I believe the main issue is our definition. The meanings are either relative or misunderstood. Additionally, there are multiple types of love and the English language only has the one word as a blanket term.
Common Modern Definitions
Love is love! Not sure what this even means. My own elementary teaching tells me never to define a word using the key word. This is circular reasoning and not helpful to anyone.
Love is a deep affection. While this may be an introductory explanation of love, it does not come close to revealing its characteristics. This definition could actually be applied to other emotions such as fondness and tenderness. Actual love should be distinct from these terms.
God is love. Careful on this one. Although true, when most use it, they are often misapplying it to say ‘God is only love.’ I have seen this phrase thrown around multiple times as people try to extinguish or minimize God’s other traits, such as just, wrathful, and jealous. These characteristics applied to people do not often sound positive, but for our God who is sovereign and good — they do not come with our human sinfulness. It is because our God is good He seeks wrath and justice upon the wicked. It is because our God loves, He is a righteously jealous Lord.
So, what is the definition we can turn to? If you are familiar with your Bible, you probably know where I’m going…
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.1 Corinthians 13:4-8
God is the only one who does this perfectly. Man fails at this again and again. We fail at loving one another as we should. Today’s culture unfortunately feeds into the negative concept of no one can love you better than you can.
- Self-love / Self-care
- Me time
- Treat yourself
- Your value lies in your perception
- You do you
- Living your best life
I personally have denied love from others because it was not how I wanted to be loved. Society told me I deserved better, and I listened. Let me clarify, I am not speaking of abusive relationships. I am calling out my own sin. Rather than respond to people I cared for in a way God commands believers to do, I turned my head in inappropriate judgment.
Brothers and sisters, if you struggle with family or friends who are lost — remember that even the saved cannot love as the Father does. However, we are commanded to strive to show a love for our neighbor that is never self-seeking or failing, despite what affection we receive in return.
Just as we struggle at loving our fellow man, we also do not love God the Father as we should.
This is both devastating and beautiful to me. It reinforces the sin of man and our need for Christ. We have a clear need for the connection of Christ to the Father and the Holy Spirit for our walk in progressive sanctification (spiritual maturity).
It is beautiful because God’s love is so pure, so merciful despite the self-seeking love I continually bring to His feet. How many prayers do I start with “I”? How many prayers fail to thank him for answered requests or blessings I did not seek; yet He graciously bestowed anyway? I am so grateful the Lord is holy and sovereign.
Lord, help us to love as you do. Help our hearts to align to Your Will that we may always seek to serve Your Kingdom with compassion. Amen