I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to what love is. The word “love” is thrown around so often it starts sounding like a cliché. We use it in many different contexts with varying meanings. I love chocolate. I love when it snows. I love my family. I love to read. We often use the word love to express strong feelings towards something that makes us happy. Maybe that’s why there is such a big focus on Valentine’s gifts. Commercials send us the message that gifts are a tangible proof of love. Additionally, the amount spent is a direct reflection of how much we are loved. The grander the gesture, the greater the love. While I may be happy when I receive flowers or other gift, there is no gift that makes me feel loved. So the love for things is very different than love for a person. I may want or desire things, but those things can’t love me back.
Maybe love is the strong feeling we have towards someone who makes us happy. I think this definition is closer. Love is more real when it experienced in relationships. New relationships generally make us very happy. This love is full of excitement and anticipation created from our desire for a more intimate connection. Like the butterflies in our stomachs when we see the object of our affection. This feeling is generally called “puppy love”. Although the feelings are strong, it’s not the real thing. So there must be more to it.
There are a lot of people that I care about, but I’m less inclined to say I love them. This is because the word love implies a deeper level of connection. We expect to see love in parent-child relationships, romantic relationships, close friendships, and (to an extent) our pets. While I love my family and friends, they don’t always make me feel happy. Sometimes they can make me feel frustrated, sad, disappointed, angry, or discouraged. Likewise, I’m sure I have the same impact on them. Yet, even when I feel hurt by them my love doesn’t come to an end. So love is about a deep connection to another. It’s more than just a feeling because it doesn’t come and go based on how I feel on any given day. It has a steadfast and abiding nature to it.
More than a feeling, love is also a choice we make. It’s our choice to remain connected to someone even during the difficult times. Love is commitment. It’s a choice to someone else’s needs ahead of our own. Real love is demonstrated by selflessness and sacrifice. If all of the pieces are put together, we understand that love is a deep personal connection and a sacrificial commitment to someone we value. It makes my love for chocolate sound silly. Although this definition describes I feel about my husband and children, I am not always consistent about displaying it all of the time. In fact, reading 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 reminds me how often my love falls short.
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 God’s love. The love that gave his only son for the sins of the world. The love that gave up his life willingly to restore our relationship.
“This is what I tell you to do: Love each other just as I have loved you. No one can have greater love than to give his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I tell you.John 15:12-14
Over the next few blogs I will be taking a closer look at love found in different kinds of relationships, how we express and receive love, and God’s love for us.