What is True Love?

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (Corinthians 13: 4-8 NKJV).

Feelings are fickle

This is the biblical definition of true love. What we see from this definition is that true love is an action not just a feeling. When in love we do feel something. However, to build a lifetime relationship with someone will require more than just a feeling. We must choose to act in a loving way toward our mate even when we don’t feel it.

Feelings can be altered or destroyed based on how we think about a person. When we say,” I fell out of love,” we mean I don’t feel about you the way I used to. This is usually a result of how you have changed in your actions towards me. Based on what I perceive to be negative actions towards me rather than what used to be positive, I change how I think about you, which in turn changes how I feel about you. God’s feelings towards us are not fickle. They are unconditional and unilateral based upon his character. God is love (1 John 4.8); therefore, his love is superior to human love. The measure of Christ likeness is the ability to show this kind of love in our relationships – love that can love through negative feelings. This kind of love is achieved by allowing God’s love to flow through our yielded mind and body.

The purpose of love

Love is not just for our personal pleasure or to help us fulfill our need for relationship and intimacy with another. God designed us in very specific ways in order to use the physical creation to teach us spiritual truth. In understanding and internalizing his truth into our total person, we develop an intimate, loving relationship with him.

We are created in his image both male and female. God placed certain characteristics of his image in males and others in females. Neither alone bear the complete image of God. God’s goal for our life is to develop the complete image of God in each of us as it is in Christ. So one way he does this is in the marriage relationship between a man and a woman. The gender differences between us create attraction, but they also create conflict. We can compete and conflict with each other, or we can learn to complement and complete one another. The latter is done through seeking to truly know each other. This requires curiosity, communication, patience and unselfishness – all the traits that go with true love.

Marriage is about procreation, pleasure but mostly about purpose. According to Ephesians 5, marriage is designed to help us better understand our relationship with Christ and his design for our life. Someone may wonder, “But what if I am single, can I still understand God’s design for my life?” Yes, all of us are single for some period in our life. For some singleness may be his plan for an extended period of time or even for a lifetime, like the Apostle Paul or Jesus.

God primarily reveals himself and his will through his word. This is available to all of us at any age and in any life circumstance. It is our willingness to study his word and humble ourselves to it that determines our ability to discern his design for our life. God then uses our unique life circumstances, people and events to build his truth into our life.

The big picture

God’s plan for most will be marriage. Leading up to that may be multiple relationships before finding “the one.” I must manage my life and sexuality in harmony with his word to make good decisions, which lead to good results. Once the decision to marry is made and things get rocky, don’t make your first thought to bail. God will use the differences of your mate that irritate you to teach you more about himself. Remember one major goal of marriage is to complete the process of restoring the image of God in you.

Dr. John Hawkins, Sr. runs Gateway Counseling Center in Boynton Beach along with his son John Jr. He can be reached by visiting gatewaycounseling.com.

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