Understanding Love – True Love
Ever had a time in life where you thought you were in love, but really found out you were not? What told you that the feelings you were having were not truly feelings of love? Did this experience make you question what love truly looked like? Were you hurt? Did you want to give up on love?
I think I can fairly say that many of us have had a bad experience with love at one time or another. But should our experiences determine what love really is? Should our experiences in this world with love really affect what love truly looks like?
Before I delve into this question, I want to share with you a story of a young man named Adrian. Adrian, was a young scrapping farm boy who lives in the Midwest. If you noticed I used past and present verb tenses within the same statement. The purpose being is that Adrian still lives in the Midwest, but not as the boy he once was.
You see, it was during a varsity football game where Adrian was hurt. He suffered severe brain damage which left him in a helpless state, no longer being able to care for himself.
Here was a boy who once spoke clearly, but could now only grunt and smile. Here was a boy who once fed himself, but could now only be fed by someone else. Here was a boy who once drove farm equipment to assist with farm duties, but could now only have someone push him in his wheelchair. Here was a boy who went from being a vibrant, varsity athlete to a boy who needed “round the clock” care in order to survive.
I tell you this story not to focus on the accident and the state of Adrian. I tell you this story to show what love truly looks like. I tell you this story because it is through Adrian’s family that we will see what God’s love truly looks like.
You see, it took a freak football accident to help Adrian’s family realize what God’s love is really like. How did this accident bring them to this realization? It showed them what love truly looks like because now they had to serve Adrian in every capacity, and all he could offer in return was a bright smile or some form of acknowledgement.
What they saw was that the love they were showing Adrian was truly unconditional. They were showing Adrian the same kind of love God showed them. They were showing Adrian the same kind of love God shows us. And by loving their son, their brother, unconditionally, it brought them closer together than they had ever been before.
I know it doesn’t make much sense that loving someone without expecting anything in return would bring Adrian’s family closer together, but that’s exactly what it did.
You know, we’re told by many an expert what love truly is, yet it falls way short of the true love that God wants His children to understand and live out. So to truly understand this love – the love of God – we have to follow as Paul states “the most excellent way.” You know, you can’t get any higher, any bigger, any better than “most excellent.” And Paul wrapped up the most excellent way, the understanding of true love, into 13 verses (1 Corinthians 13: 1-13).
In this reading are a series of characteristics/principles that God wants to be evident in a person’s life, especially a follower of Jesus.
Paul opened up 1 Corinthians by saying, and this is my paraphrase to verses 1-3, “I don’t care Christians of Corinth what great things you do. They could be the most magnificent things in this world – you could prophesy of things in the future, you could speak in tongues other than your own so that men and angels could understand, you could use your powers to heal and to move mountains, you could give generously of yourself and of your money to others – but if they are not done in love, they mean nothing.”
In simple terms, love must encompass what you do or it means nothing.
How am I supposed to let love encompass everything I do? What does this actually look like?
· It looks like when you’re very ill in bed and someone takes care of your every need so that you can rest and get better.
· It looks like when you’re standing in line at the grocery store and someone with more items allows you to go first.
· It looks like when you give your boss an idea that will help the company and you’re not worried if you will get the credit and recognition for the idea.
What God was saying through Paul is this, if you’re doing great things for your own self-interest and the glory you will receive, God sees it and counts it as zero – nadda – nothing.
· Love must encompass what you do.
· It must be done with the other person in mind.
· In other words, how will it benefit the other person, not me?
The second principle comes from 1 John 4: 20. John, the beloved apostle, said it this way, “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”
It can’t get any clearer than that. John shared with us that hate, disdain for another, detesting someone; cannot be in our vocabulary. It’s not saying everyone will be our friend, but even then Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”
Now why would John make such a point? Because hate truly contradicts who God is – fore God first loved us, but had every reason to hate us for turning our back on Him through our sin.
So understand this: Love cannot involve hate. If it does, it’s a lie.
Now when it comes to love, we often have our own ideas. And our ideas often are derived from sources that are common to our everyday experiences. But keep in mind:
· Love is not what the TV teaches.
· Love is not what music lyrics teach.
· They both tell us that love is romantic – only romantic.
· They both tell us that love is meeting someone you like, and when you’re ready, give yourself physically – just make sure you’re protected.
· They both tell us that love is doing what is best for you.
· They both tell us that love isn’t love until you’ve found the person who is your soul mate.
It’s no wonder that this definition of love has led to many broken hearts, unplanned pregnancies, STD’s, adulterous relationships, etc. in our culture. It’s no wonder we don’t know what love truly is or looks like.
But if we want what God truly desires in love, we’ll look to His word – His wisdom. And as we focused our attention on two big ideas from His word, we see that God’s intent for love is not romanticism, but rather a focus on committing ourselves to others.