Love is More
Love in the English language is a sloppy word. I love the Cubs. I love chocolate. I love my wife. I love God. Two people fall in love. Lovers practice sexual intimacy. How can the same word describe the range of emotions involved in these very different things?
In general, our culture confuses love and sexual desire. The focus is on our feelings. The focus, too often, is on getting my desires met. The focus is on me.
Genuine love, on the other hand, focuses on the beloved. And genuine love is more than feelings. It is deep caring that results in loving actions. Love is often defined by sacrifice. A soldier, out of love for his brothers, throws his body on a grenade and dies saving their lives. A single mom loves her children so much she is willing to work two jobs and sacrifice her dating life to raise them well. The Son of God lays down His life on a cross outside Jerusalem for sinners who cannot save themselves, many of whom will never acknowledge His sacrifice or love Him in return.
In the Apostle Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, he spends chapters 12 through 14 dealing with the spiritual gifts given to believers by the Holy Spirit for ministry. In the center of it all, Paul describes what he calls the greatest gift of all: love.
"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." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV)
Take note that there is not a sexual word in Paul's description of love. There are no feeling words. These are actions on behalf of another. If I love, I am patient and kind. If I love, I am not envious, not boastful, nor proud. If I genuinely love, I do not dishonor others, I am not self-seeking, and I am neither easily angered nor a score-keeper of wrongs. I do not delight in evil, but I rejoice with the truth. I always protect, trust, hope and persevere. If genuine love motivates my life, I never fail to act in loving ways toward others.
I wish I could say I live up to this definition of love every single time. I don't. Love is still working on the sin nature buried deep in my heart. But real love--God's love--has already changed so much in my life.
The Apostle John says this: "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." (1 John 4:8 NIV) God is love. Love and holiness are the essential nature of who God is, according the His self-revelation in Scripture. So here's the thing: you can substitute "God" for "love" in Paul's paragraph and it means the very same thing!
"God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails."
And since God's Spirit lives in the lives of those who trust His Son, Jesus, for redemption, His Spirit is making us Christ-like. So we can put our own name in Paul's paragraph and see how our lives are marked by love.
"Mike is patient, Shirley is kind. Theresa does not envy, Roy does not boast, Joe is not proud. Ruth does not dishonor others, Bea is not self-seeking, Paulette is not easily angered, Susie keeps no record of wrongs. Allen does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Brandy always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus never fails."
That last one is critical. We are incapable of practicing perfect love. I may be generally patient and still lose my patience with Shirley. You may not be easily angered, but lose it in some situations. Only Jesus never fails. And the good news is: it is Jesus, living in us, who provides the deep, sacrificial, pure love that transforms us into lovers.
Love is more than getting my own needs met. Love is more than sexual desire. Love is Jesus living in and through me to love others. Love is more...