Real Love

Valentine’s Day, hearts and love are what people associate with February. Of course there is also Groundhog Day and Presidents Day rounding out the month. But, for most, love is the theme. Now “love” is a word used a lot in our culture but its meaning can lose some of its meaning. Why? Because of how we act towards one another. Love is often professed but then is not shown to the one we are professing it to.

Life is primarily about relationships. Jesus was asked what the greatest of all the commandments was and his answer was to love God with all of our heart and might. The second was similar; love your neighbor as yourself. There you have it: life is about loving God and loving others. There are four primary areas of life that we engage in relationships – marriage, friendships, work and church. But before looking at what it means to act in love in these four areas, we need a foundational and functional definition of love.

Love defined
One of the clearest definitions of love in the entire Bible is given in 1 Corinthians 13. It tells us that love should be the ultimate motivation for all we do. In fact, any actions not motivated by love are meaningless. Notice how comprehensively love is defined in verses four through eight.

“Love is patient, Love is kind and is not jealous; Love does not brag and is not arrogant,Does not act unbecomingly, Does not take into account a wrong suffered, Does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

This is a pretty high standard to measure our love against. It describes how to treat others with kindness and patience. This love eliminates the anger in relationships along with pride, arrogance and unwarranted jealousy. This love does not treat someone in an improper way, especially in public. This love does not use biting or sarcastic humor, criticism and ridicule to mask anger at someone. Real love does not keep track of the wrongs others commit against us. It does not rejoice when it hears something bad about another person, but only when it hears the good. Love puts up with a lot, hopes for the best, hangs in there and does not quit. Human love is conditional. The condition is how you treat me. When you treat me bad, then I quit loving because I no longer feel good feelings toward you. God’s love described here is much greater. It is unconditional. That is why God can tell us to be like him and love our enemies (Matthew 5:44-45).

God’s love is far greater than human love. It is the standard we are to adopt. It is also a standard that is attainable but only by grace.

Love lived
God is love (1 John 4:8). Jesus came into the world as God in the flesh and showed us how to live. Let us look briefly at some simple ways that real love is lived in the four key life relationship areas.

When it comes to marriage, the Greeks had three words for love (Greek being the original language of the New Testament). This first, phileo, refers to friendship. The second, agapao, refers to total commitment and desiring the best for another (it is the word used in John 3:16). The third, eros, refers to the physical dimension of love. A great marriage has all three types of love in it. Friends, lovers and total commitment. Does that sound like the kind of marriage you would like to be in?

When it comes to friendship, the Bible gives us a wonderful picture of a loving friendship in David and Jonathan. The scripture tells us, “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17).” It also says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).” This is the kind of friend Jesus is to sinners and it is what marks a true friendship.

How do you show love at work in an appropriate way? There is a correlation between the church and the workplace in this. Love means desiring the best for another. It means preferring others to ourselves. We call this servanthood. It is the path to true greatness according to Jesus. This is where all the “one anothers” of scripture come into play. Jesus said the mark of true discipleship was the love we show to one another (John 13:35). Whether it is the body of Christ in the community or the individual believer in the workplace, showing the reality of Christ’s love is vitally important.

If you find yourself lacking in love for others, remind yourself of how much love God has shown you. He’s forgiven you, accepted you, adopted you and called you his own. The next time you find yourself reacting to a situation with a lack of love, stop to consider love in the person of Jesus Christ, and your attitude will change. Love God and allow him to love you, and your love for others will overflow.

John is the founder and lead counselor at Gateway Counseling Center in Boynton Beach. He can be reached at [email protected]

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