THE TRUTH ABOUT LOVE
The Truth About Love
A person would perhaps be excused today if they were confused about the nature and purpose of love. A quick survey of modern marketing and entertainment yields so many conflicting messages that the word has become diluted to the point of near meaninglessness. For every assertion that love is not about how much we spend there’s a commercial reminding us that if it’s worth saying we should say it with a Helzberg diamond and that every kiss begins with Kay.
If I were to simply study culture in order to answer the question what is love and how does it behave, two truths would seem completely unassailable.
- People are captive to love. We can’t help who we love. Observation leads to the conclusion that we have no more control over love than gravity or the tides, and we are just as much under its sway as theirs. Love’s course cannot be altered. I have no control.
- Loving someone means finding someone who completes me. This includes someone that accepts me just as I am. My true love will realize their highest obligation is to fulfill me, and allow me to find my dreams.
I didn’t come to these conclusions through an objective study of love. I merely observed culture. It is this kind of love, espoused by companies like Disney and Hallmark, that has defined the term for generations?
The trouble is not just that they are wrong, but that they are severely wrong. In fact everything I’ve learned about love from self appointed experts on the matter could not be further from the truth.
4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:1-8 NASB)
We could spend all day trying to unravel all the opinions about love that masquerade as truth, but if we can address two of them we’ll be better prepared to both know love and love others.
Love is about choice—Forget everything you’ve heard about being overwhelmed by love. You can choose to love and behave lovingly. The notion of being overwhelmed by love is a convenient excuse for bad behavior. Sometimes we are excusing relationships that we know we should not be in other times we excuse ourselves from the obligation of loving others.
To be clear Love can be difficult. Perhaps that’s why Paul warned the church at Ephesus to be angry and not sin and not to let the sun go down on wrath. There are plenty of opportunities in relationships for the Devil to exploit, but even when faced with difficulty we can choose love.
We know this for certain because it is the choice to love and not seek vengeance that makes possible our salvation. Was God forced by overwhelming love to send His Son? Of Course He wasn’t. Paul shows us just the opposite in Romans 5. Jesus’ sacrifice was an act of freewill not a forced burden.
Look back at I Corinthians 13. Paul writes first about the attributes of Love first, telling us that it is patient, kind, and not jealous, and then in verse 5 begins to tell us about how those attributes are to manifest themselves in our daily lives. Why would he write that good works are of no avail if we don’t have love if our love toward others is something beyond our control?
No one is denying the emotional aspect of love. I love my wife from the depths of my heart, but I made the choice to allow those feelings to grow and to sustain them. When Christians fall out of love it is just as much a choice. We choose to cutoff those feelings. It’s convenient to behave as if they died, and to think that we are merely victims of the whims of love, but it isn’t true. Whether we are talking about love in a marriage or love of the brethren we are not victims. We are the deciders. This is evidenced in God’s choice to love me His stranger and enemy.
Love is about service—Common sentiment dictates that we are completed by Love. While destined love is a nice romantic notion it has no place in truth. Love is not spelled out for us in the stars, and God has not destined for us a perfect half to make us whole. If He had why would Peter speak of living with a wife in understanding (1Peter 3:7) and why would Paul command love toward our wives(Ephesians 5;25; Colossians 3:19) If love is destined then loving and serving should be as natural as breathing. Shouldn’t it also be the case if the purpose of love is about completing oneself? Love is about serving that which is loved and not being served. We know this instinctually don’t we. Watch children expressing love, it’s most often through service is it not?
The real truth is that we have twisted the moral of the story. We see how others do not love us when they fall short in their duties, but we never question whether or not we are so quick to see their faults because of our own motives and attitudes. If we are looking for a love that completes us rather than an opportunity to serve and show love we’ve missed the point.
If we are going to love as has been commanded then we are going to have to learn the lesson of service. There is no I in love.