When you hear the word “love“, what is the first thing that you think of?
Are you bombarded with thoughts of the most recent Nicolas Sparks movie, or the latest #RelationshipGoals post on Instagram? Or maybe it’s the lyrics of the newest Taylor Swift song that come to mind.
With all the ways that love is preached to us in our culture, we are left with a love that is superficial, and does not satisfy.
Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the entirety of your life, at some point you have heard a phrase like, “God is Love“, you’ve seen Christian sub-culture, or you’ve been overwhelmed by the number of “John 3:16’s” you’ve seen plastered on t-shirts, mugs, and Instagram bios. It’s pretty clear that when we look at God, or at our relationship, we crave love.
There is nothing wrong with desiring love, but If we have not defined love well, we will be disappointed.
To understand love, we must go back to the Source of love; to the One who not only loves, but is Himself love. I want to lay out three points that I pray would give us as believers a biblical definition for Love, and as an unbeliever, would challenge you to see Love in a new way.
1. Love is Not Solely About Feelings.
In Western culture, we tend to be driven by our feelings. If we look throughout scripture, we won’t find feelings to be what drives our love for God, or our love for people. More importantly, we don’t see feelings as the decisive factor in God’s love for us.
In Genesis, we see God make a promise to Abraham that He would be with him and his descendants forever. God didn’t promise to love them based on certain conditions, or by their devotion to Him. When David commits adultery and has a man murdered, God does not restrain His love. He chooses to love David even though his sin grieved God’s heart. Ultimately we look at the cross and see God, in the person of Jesus, who, despite the agony and wrath that was to come, endured it all to bring His people back to God.
When we love, it should reflect how God has loved us. First we must respond to God by choosing to love Him, even when His perfect ways contradict our own feelings. When it comes to our relationships with people who aren’t perfect, we are still called to love. When someone offends you, you love them because God has loved us, even when we have greatly offended Him by our sin. When people annoy you, you love because God has been patient with you. When people hate you, you love them because while we were enemies of God, Christ still died for us. (Rom. 5:10)
2. Love is More Than a Choice.
In an article called Love is More Than a Choice, Pastor John Piper explains that the saying “love is a choice,” if not understood biblically, can lead to the belief that love is in our own power to preform. This, in turn, sets the standard of loving much too low. If you can wish to treat someone well, you have done all that you should.
We are incapable of loving without Jesus.
Maybe it’s just me, but when I try to love people on my own, I fail. Oftentimes the love that I’m expressing isn’t about others, but myself. I tend to love to gain merit before man, not to lead people to the Author of love. The reason we will never love people simply by asserting our own will to love is because we were not made to love empowered by our own hearts, which tend to be selfish.
The very last thing that Jesus prays before getting taken to trial to be crucified is, “that the love you (The Father) have for me may be in them, and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:26) Jesus prays that the same sacrificial, powerful love He displayed on the cross would not only affect us, but would dwell in us, through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Therefore, the only way to love people right is to be empowered by the Spirit of God.
3. Loving Out of Obligation is No Fun.
Once again, when we think about Love, we should always go back to the One who defines love by His very being. While emotion does not always spur on God’s love, it is the direct result of His unwavering commitment to love us. It is clear that as God chooses to love you and I, despite the unlovable things in us, He rejoices over us. (Zephaniah 3:17) (Jeremiah 32:41)
God has shown us that our delight in Him is to be the prize for our choice to love God, and others. As the Westminster Catechism states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” God has not called us to a begrudging love, but to a love that is empowered by the Spirit. This leads us to delight in people and more importantly, in God Himself.
This truth must inform the decision we make to love, knowing that loving people and the Lord well will in the end bring us the most joy, despite the momentary feelings we may have. Choosing to love our friends, families, spouses, and God, despite our emotions, will result in joy and delight in these gifts, as well as in the Giver of these gifts.
True Love does not exist apart from Christ.
As I stated earlier, our culture leaves us with an attempt at love that is shallow and unfulfilling. If we are seeking to find love in anything other than the perfect love of Jesus, we are wasting our time.
Being a Christian, it’s easy to stand back and look at unbelievers and fault them for searching for love in areas that dishonor God. Yet, if we are not constantly looking inward and allowing God to convict us of striving for love apart from Him, we will be robbed of our joy in Jesus.
If you have searched your entire life for a love that satisfies, and have been left empty, fix your eyes upon Jesus. For in Him, love came to us, that we might be given life, and life abundantly.
Whether you’re a Christian or not, if we run to our culture’s version of love, we will be discontent and without hope. However, with Jesus, we will find love in hopeless situations.
Gabe was a kid on a youth group mission trip when he first made YWAM Louisville’s acquaintance. DTS brought him back, and now he’s a full-time part of our staff family. Gabe’s a good guy with a ready smile and a servant’s heart, attacking the task at hand with enthusiasm and excellence. He’s a natural leader and oozes creative energy, so if you’re wondering what he’s up to on any given evening, he’s probably hanging with the guys or leading a spontaneous worship night. Or he’s at ballet class – and he’s not ashamed to admit it.