On love…

Seeing as how we’ve just celebrated Valentine’s day (with much chocolate) I’ve been thinking on love and what it really means to love someone.  We have such a skewed understanding of what love actually is.  First of all, just defining the word is a challenge.  According to Webster,  you’ve got 9 definitions in noun format to chose from plus another 4 when the word ‘love’ is used as a verb.  ….?  This is largely why we don’t understand what love is.  We’ve given it 13 different meanings!  You can’t just say “I love…” and expect anyone to truly understand what you mean.  You don’t love your husband like you love triple coupon Thursday.  You don’t love your children like you love oreos.  You don’t love Christ like you love the Counting Crows.  At least I hope not.  We’ve cheapened the meaning of the word by carelessly  assigning it to any and everything. 


So now what?  How do we define ‘love’?  We know our love for chocolate chip cookies is nothing like our love for God’s Word, but how do we distinguish the two?  Or better yet, when we’re told to “love one another” does that just mean thinking about each other and saying mmmmmmmmmmmm.  Cause that’s how I love chocolate chip cookies.  Somehow I don’t think that’s what Jesus had in mind.

In John chapter 13 Jesus says, “A new command I give you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”  I’ve struggled so much with this command over my years of following Christ.  That probably sounds like a horrible thing to say, but it’s the truth!  Too often, the law has been the obstacle keeping me from loving others.  I’ve held myself and them under the law of Moses rather than the law of Jesus.  As a result, I have been prideful, hurtful, unkind, harsh and condemning.  I know that’s not what Jesus meant.  I can’t seem to remember that it’s my job to love, the Spirit’s job to convict, Christ’s job to save and the Father’s job to judge.  Let’s take a look at some other things the Bible has to say about love.  Where better to start than 1 Corinthians chapter 13, the love chapter. 

The Way of Love

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I heartam nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Let’s look closely at verses 4-8.  Here Paul gives us a list of what love does and does not do.  “Love is patient and kind.”  Am I patient with my children?  Am I kind to them?  I often find myself being terse with them – disparaging.  They are my children whom I love and the Lord entrusted my with.  Lord, help me to be kind and patient with the little lives you’ve given me to raise up in a godly manner. 

“Love does not envy or boast.”  Do I wish for things the Lord blesses those around me with?  Am I quick to mention things I’ve been blessed with – be they trinkets or talents?  Father, help me to hold my tongue and not be prideful or boastful.  My only boast is Christ.  Make me joyful for my brothers and sisters when you bless them with things I desire.  Keep me from every covetous thought.

“It is not arrogant or rude.”  When I meet someone who holds a different worldview than I, do I treat them as if they are of less value than myself?  Am I rude to people who are not nice to me?  Lord, teach me to value others because they are bearers of your image.  Remind me of the grace you’ve shown me when I’m ready to show others only arrogance.

“It does not insist on it’s own way.”  Am I joyful when my husband makes a decision that I don’t like or agree with?  Do I have a bad attitude when things don’t go my way?  Lord, make me content with the circumstances you give me.

“It is not resentful or irritable.”  Am I keeping a record of wrongs?  Do I excuse my irritability on fatigue or other people’s actions?  Father, help me forgive those who’ve sinned against me, just as you’ve forgiven me.  Keep me from being irritable and mean to others even when I don’t feel well.

“It does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.”  Do I secretly take joy in others’ misfortune? Lord, let me hold no secret sin especially the sin of hate.

Do I bear all things with the people in my life?  Do I believe all these things that God has promised to do and be in my life?  Do I hope for Christ glorified in all things?  Do I endure all things with the people in my life?  Do I fail at any of this and just give up?

Father, be my strength today and tomorrow as I love others.  Teach me to love in ways I’ve never known before and help me to forget some of the wrong definitions I’ve given it.  Help me to not be so casual with my usage of the word.  Let me only prescribe it to worthy, weighty things.  In all my being, Lord, let me be Christ, who is above all else love.


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