It’s easy to say things you think that others want to hear, especially if you have no emotional stock in the result of their delivery. In relationships we can be quick to say something that feels right because the moment is right, the time is right, and it seems like the right thing to do, but who determines “right?” The answer is God. He is the author of Love.
Earlier this summer, I was challenged to qualify my feelings of love. The Lord confronted me with 1 Corinthians 13. We have heard part of this chapter read at weddings…so much so that it almost seems cliche. There was something that I was missing, and it was important that I allow the Lord to show me what he wanted me to know. The result was a very sobering definition of love:
In my confession, I wrote out how the way I felt and what I did as a result matched each these attributes. Moreover, I had to realize that love was not about what was to be gained from loving, but what I could give away. Love is the most important commandment that was left to us by Jesus and its importance is explicitly explained in several areas of the new testament (Matthew, 22:36-40, Mark 12: 28-31, Luke 10:25-28, John 3:16, John 13:34, 1 Peter 4:8).
Love is an imperative and integral part of human development, success, and identity. Love is not a feeling, but a choice and an action. We must choose to love one another and do things that show the commitment of that confession. Love is everlasting and it will still stand when everything else has crumbled. The example is Jesus. He is eternal and when this world passes away, his love for us will stand because those who have decided to be a part of the family of Christ will live forever with him. He chose to love us and thus gave us everlasting life through his death.
What I found most interesting, was the following:
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me,” (1 Corinthians 13:11).
For a long time I didn’t understand why this verse was placed among the others. It seemed odd. What I know now is that love is a serious matter and should not be professed with immaturity. Do you remember your high school sweetheart? That person that you were so in love with who could do no wrong in your eyes. Then you grew up. You didn’t quite feel the same about them. I don’t know many people who married their high school sweetheart. I certainly didn’t, but am sure at some point during that season we told each other those three words that everyone wants to hear from their mate: I love you. No matter how well-intentioned, this was immature. We had not experienced enough life together to decide that there was true love in the midst of our relationship. It can develop, but as a teen who was not completely emotionally, spiritually, or biologically developed, it is improbable to believe that I could make that choice to love in this way. Or what about that person you dated in your twenties or even thirties and swore you would marry, but as soon as they started acting silly, you dropped them like a bad habit never to be brought up again? Was that love? Thankfully, the Lord understands how we need to grow up and bestows an extraordinary amount of grace with each experience as we learn on this life journey.
In order to understand love, we must understand sacrifice and giving our all without expectation of anything in return. I learned this through a very important friendship this summer. It was tough, but the reward was in learning what God intended for friendship and love. Now when those words flow, I know that they are backed with truth because I was challenged to demonstrate my affections. It’s an ongoing process and I still have much to learn. We will see what the future brings!