It is February, with Valentine’s Day right in the middle, and I thought it a good time to talk about love. However, a little research made me more aware than ever of the breach between God’s love and the worldly love that we have come to know.
Most definitions of love are vague and non-descriptive. Every article you read has a different opinion without any real explanation. Google throws up images of fluffy teddies, red hearts, and romantic sunsets. I realized this was going to be more difficult than I anticipated. People have come to their own perception of what love is; molded by experience, distorted by the world and rooted in damaged lives. No wonder so many people are skeptical and disappointed by love.
Without a clear description, I figured the best way to talk about love was to turn to the author and creator of love. The Bible says more about love than anything else and teaches us everything we need to know. So instead of trying to explain love, I am going to talk about how we should love as God loves us. There is probably no greater example of love, than The Father’s Heart.
Love is not…
To begin with, in order to love as God loves, we must rid our minds of a few misconceptions of what love should look like. How many of us grew up with fairy tales about the beautiful maiden and handsome prince who ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after? I know this clouded my judgment when I was much younger and led to bitter disappointment, broken trust, and self-blame. Love is so much more than a romantic notion.
Love is not just a feeling, it is an action. Yes, we feel happy when we experience love but love is not what we get, love is what we give. We choose to act and the feeling follows. Sometimes we don’t ‘feel’ loving towards another person. But God tells us to love no matter what mood we are in. He loves us regardless, even when we have sinned and hurt Him, therefore we cannot love only when it suits us, it must be at all times.
We can’t carry the expectation that another person must do things our way in order for us to ‘feel’ loved, neither must we allow another person to place the same expectations on us. Our disappointment often stems from the fact that we cannot control another person’s behavior towards us and dictate to them how they should love us. Even loving relationships need barriers. Yes God gives us commands because He is our Father and knows what is best for us but we can’t place our expectations on other people out of selfish desires. The more we demand, the more we push people away and the more that happens, the more desperate we get. Love starts with us.
…just a romantic relationship
God tells us to love our neighbors, not just our romantic partners and our spouses. Romance should be a by-product and not the goal. Too much emphasis is placed on the romance and not enough on the relationship itself.
Love is not complicated, relationships are. Why is love seen to be so messy and confusing? Because we measure it by how we feel and feelings can be influenced by so many things. We are all so different and bring our own interpretations of love to a relationship but this is because we follow a worldly view of love and not God’s design.
People often confuse love and lust. Love is not lust. Lust is not Godly love, it is a physical desire. When lust fades, people think they are no longer in love. If we are to love as God loves, we choose to continue loving that person even when the shine wears off.
…a guarantee of everlasting happiness
Love doesn’t mean nothing bad will happen and nothing will go wrong, it means when it does we will still be patient, kind, honorable and selfless. We choose to continue to love a person even when they have disappointed us. This does not mean you have to stay in an abusive or toxic situation. You may need to remove or distance yourself from a person, but you can still love that person, as God loves us.
…the same to all people
Love means different things to different people. Once more our perception of love is influenced by the world. Movies, TV, books, and magazines portray love as a romantic feeling, which when discovered leads to everlasting happiness. When that fails to materialize for us we feel like a failure. We expect love to look a certain way and when it doesn’t we are disappointed which can potentially lead to depression and even suicide.
1 Corinthians 13
How do we love in all circumstances the way God loves? One of the most well known descriptions of Biblical love is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, often read at weddings, less often followed.
“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.”
This is the love that God exhibits towards us and how He expects us to act towards others. He doesn’t say it will be easy, but always keep in your mind how He loves us despite our flaws and imperfections.
To love is to do those things for another person, whether it is your child, spouse, parent or friend. Memorize this scripture and put it into practice daily. At first, it may take some self-discipline but it will eventually become a way of life and then you will see change happen in the relationships around you.
Love is a supernatural phenomenon that can’t easily be described and is too vast for a simple explanation.
Love is a choice, it cannot be bought or earned. God chooses to love us when we certainly don’t deserve it.
God is the ultimate picture of love and has designed us in His image, to love and be loved.
Love is completely selfless. It is not what we can get from another but all about what we can give to another person. How different to the expectations we place on others in the worldly sense of love?
5 Love Languages
Love looks different to everybody and people express love differently. When you choose to love, you then have to communicate that to the other person in a way that they understand. There is an excellent book written by Gary Chapman called the 5 Love Languages. If you are in a relationship and haven’t read this book yet, try and get hold of a copy.
Here are the 5 Love Languages as per Gary Chapman’s book.
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Receiving gifts
- Acts of service
- Physical touch
We are all different as are our experiences of love. If you want to express your love to another person, be it a partner, spouse, child, parent or friend, the best way to do it is through their love language. If we express it in a way that suits us, you may miss the mark because the other person doesn’t ‘get it’.
For example, you may feel loved if given thoughtful gifts because it tells you that person made the effort to think about you. Another person may keep telling you how wonderful you are but this makes you feel uncomfortable because you have trust issues and doubt their sincerity. They may both love you, but you are likely to feel happier and more loved by the first person than by the second. Speaking a person’s love language goes a long way to improve communication and harmony in a relationship.
Godly love never fails
Love never fails. Not because we will always win over the other person or get what we want, but because you will ALWAYS please God and you will ALWAYS feel better knowing you tried and did the right thing. Not everybody loves God, but He never stops being a kind, loving, forgiving Father in return. Eventually, His love reaches down and touches peoples hearts. We cannot reach everybody all the time because some people are hurt too deeply and are in a different place on their journey. But the chances are if you continue to love as God loves, you will find breakthrough in even the hardest hearts.
If it is in giving that we receive, then surely if we learn how to love as God loves, we will experience Godly love in return. Is this not the genuine love that we so desire? We can never match up to God’s love for us but we can certainly strive to love as God loves.
I will leave you with this thought-provoking quote from Mother Teresa:
Once you have read Gary Chapman’s book, decide what your own love language is. Ask other people who you are close to what their love language is and make the effort to speak their language.
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