What does it mean to love? It seems like a simple question. In a very real sense, for a believer in Jesus Christ, it is simple. It is as simple as breathing.
Yet in this fallen world, in this our present state of affairs, love seems harder to define. With all the confusion about what people claim love is and is not, many of us are left believing that love is a fleeting thing, something we can never fully grasp. But what truly is love?
Love. Is it feeling? An emotion? What does it mean to experience love? Love seems to mean many different things: affection, devotion, passion, addiction. We throw the word around so easily:
“I love my family.”
“I love my dog.”
“I love ice cream.”
“I love my favorite pair of shoes!”
But is this love?
There have been many books written about love, many stories, many songs, and many plays. Lovers struggle to find the meaning in their embrace, only to experience disappointment as the objects of their love – each other – fall short of an ideal born in fickle and faithless hearts. Families or friends often fail us in the frailty of their human condition. Possessions, prominence, power, and prestige – all the things upon which we hang our hearts – will fade away to dust. In the end, none of these can provide the love we need.
We hear phrases like, “Love conquers all!” and “All you need is love!” But what does that really mean? To some, love is a fearful dream, a phantom mocking in the darkness, that promises deliverance but delivers only death. For others, love is a power we use to manipulate or hold others too closely – or too far away. Love is a risk, a chance, a game to play…or so it is said – at least in the world that is passing away.
Too many people have been let down by love. They see it as a fairy tale that cannot come true, no matter how hard they try to believe. But that is the world’s brand of love. The love we feel for objects is as fleeting as the wind. Our love for others is so often incomplete because its source is a selfish heart.
But here is a secret that is meant to be shared, to be shouted from the rooftops and whispered in the hidden places. So many miss it because it is so simple and yet so profound. If we take hold of this secret it can change our lives…
Love…IS A VERB!
Love isn’t something you “feel” – although real love touches your feelings in the deepest part of your soul. Love is something you do, sometimes at the cost of all you have or all you are. Real love gives until it hurts, until it drains us of all we are, until we surrender to the One outside ourselves. But as we give, we receive. And when we spend ourselves in love for another or for the world, we may not see a return for our investment – at least in human terms. But as we lose our lives for love we discover a treasure in a place where corrosion cannot enter and moth cannot destroy.
There is a love that we are offered that goes beyond the words, beyond the poetry and passion and all the many misunderstandings we ascribe to the word. When we experience this love – this real love – it becomes a part of us and it comes as naturally as breathing. It enters our hearts and flows from within like each breath we take. It is as pure, as simple, and as real as it gets – this love that gives.
Love too is a need, a need deep down in our souls, an emptiness that cannot be fully filled except by the One who emptied himself for us all…in love. While we try to nail love down, he nailed it up – up on a wooden cross.
There is a love so powerful and so complete that it led the Father to give up his Only Son so that we could be touched by that love. There is a love so passionate, so pure, and so perfect, that it led the Son to live among us as a man. It gave him eyes to see right into the depths of our pain. It gave him hands to touch and to heal our every hurt. It gave him feet to walk the rocky roads of life with his beloved brothers and sisters. And it gave him the joy to endure the cross, scorning its shame, all for love – all for love.
In his holy book, every chapter, every verse, every stroke of the pen is a letter of love to you and me. The love of God existed from eternity past and will continue to Kingdom Come without end. Every moment of salvation’s story led up to the cross, and continues to lead us to the day when only love will remain.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Is the face you find of someone loveable? Or is it someone who is full of flaws, missing in action, beyond healing and hope? Look again, for there is One who sees you with different eyes, the eyes of unspoiled, sacrificial love.
Look up at the stars and count them if you can. Look at the heights of the mountains, the vastness of the ocean depths. Look at the incredible complexity of all creation and be struck with the wonder and awe at it all.
Love painted the colors of the sky. Love set the stars in the heavens. Love separated land from sea and filled the world with beauty, order, and purpose. But as amazing as all that is, the most amazing thing of all is that the same God who created the universe, created you and me – because of love.
You could have a well-trained tongue to speak the words of angels, eyes to see the future or understand the mysteries of life, power and faith and gifts to share, or a life surrendered in service to the world…
…but without love – it is NOTHING!
Love is patient, love is kind, emptied of envy, broken of boastfulness, humble, forbearing, hungry for the truth. Power and prophecy, tongues and treasures, they will all cease – but love endures. Now we know in part, but one day we shall know love’s fullness – even as we are fully known.
We are called to leave our childish ways behind and embrace the greatest of all the virtues, to come to the place where love was laid down, only to be taken up again. In Jesus, we can bring our faults and our failings, our sins and our short-sightedness, all that we are, all that we have done or failed to do, and all our dreams of love and leave them at the cross. In Jesus, we can let go of all we thought love was or hoped it would be, and embrace what it truly is!
If you are still unsure of love’s meaning, let this be the moment when you finally see! Let go and come to the cross. Fall down in your brokenness and look up to see the One who was broken for you! Rise up in the fullness of his love. Jesus loves you, just as you are; and he loves you for all you will be in him. His love does conquer all! His love is all you need!
Love is forgiveness for failure. Love is the power to persevere. Love is the grace to start again. Love is the passion to live out the potential of all you were made to be.
May we come to our Love, to the One who loves us wonderfully, perfectly, and eternally, the One who gave up his life completely, so that we could know the love that will remain.
So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:16, RSV)