Recently, I was asked to define love.
My response: “Unconditional.”
Certainly not the most complex or the most profound definition. But nonetheless, it’s what | believe.
I mean, I get it.
Often what we read during Sunday morning worship doesn’t transcend in our Monday – Saturday lives. So then what we discover is that Scripture, in theory, sounds good (because it is in fact, good), but it’s the application that we struggle with.
If I were to be given the task to rename the 66 books of holy, God-breathed text, I would consider republishing it as “The Greatest Love Story Ever Written.” From Genesis to Revelation the overwhelming and undeniable truth of unconditional love is interwoven, chapter by chapter and line by line. “God so loved that He gave His only begotten Son” (see: John 3:16) even when we were dead and unworthy of love, God so loved us.
It is only fitting that the Author of such a profound text is Himself defined as the very essence of love. “God is love” (see: 1 John 4:8). A statement that is past and present progressive.
God is constant, unfailing, and a perpetuating state of love. Past. Present. Future. God is love.
Naturally I wondered what this love entails. What does it look like? What does it feel like? And to be honest, I was a little confused.
Listen, we may be seated in heavenly places, but we live in this sinful world. World standards are so warped that the idea of love is equated to happiness, pleasure, money, and gifts. If believers aren’t careful, we‘ll fall into the trap of becoming disappointed when, what we think is, love doesn‘t look like your favorite primetime show or box–office hit.
The infamous “love chapter” helped to settle the internal debate for me because it sums it up quite well. Not according to the standard we are accustomed to, but according to truth.
“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
Here’s an exercise I saw floating around on IG:
Try replacing the word “love” or “it” with your name and read it out loud.
How did that sound?
Now, try replacing the same words with the name of your spouse, significant other, or loved one and read it again.
How about now?
How easy or difficult that was to read is a helpful indicator of our position on God’s love barometer. For many of us not all of those statements are true.
I think true love has less to do with emotions and more to do with consistency. Perhaps it‘s unconditional action.
So. What does love have to do with anything?
Well, our lives are driven by our desires. We are culturally inundated with a desire for more “stuff.”
If your only intention or driving force is to please another human being, good luck with that (#impossible #wastingyourtime). Why? Because humans are strange creatures wrapped in fickle flesh.
If left up to our own devices we would hardly recognize ourselves at the end of each day; let alone be able to come off of our emotional highs or lows to be able to correctly judge another person in love. Thank God for the Holy Spirit whose greatest joy is to teach us and lead us into all truth, if we allow Him to (see: John 16:13).
The goal is to please Love.
Not me. Not you. God is the standard. Anything less than His definition of love, can‘t be love. Call it something else.
And if we miss the magnitude of God’s unconditional love captured in His Word and displayed in the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, then it’s literally impossible for us to love others. We simply won’t know how. As we have freely received Unconditional Love, we should also give unconditional love freely.
Tina Turner got it wrong in the song. Love is not just “a second hand emotion” or a “sweet old fashioned notion.”
In fact, love has everything to do with it.
Because as children of God, Love defines who we are at our core and Love should govern how we live our lives every single day.
Easy? Probably not.
Required? You better believe it.
I challenge you to look beyond yourself and truly love someone else today.