Oh, the most beautiful thing in the world—the word that is most overused in the dictionary, the thing that makes the world go ‘round. What is love, really?
I know it is quite overrated and bordering redundancy to be talking about love during the Love Month (as if this is not done yearly). Love in its most real sense is not only the romantic kind we are accustomed to.
Love is the very essence of our existence. God loves us enough to create us and make us in His own image and likeness. (Genesis 1:27)
Love is the reason we are saved. God loved the world so much He gave His one and only Son to die on the cross to pay for our sins (John 3:16).
We are instructed in the Bible to do everything in and with love. (1Corinthians 16:14) “The greatest commandment is to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
We must love. Always and everyone. Yes, including our enemies. (Matthew 5:44)
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3)
The five I mentioned are just some of the many truths about love in the Bible emphasizing its importance. But what are the characteristics of love? How do you know that you are capable of loving?
Truthfully speaking, some people have a wrong concept of love. Some do not know how to love. While there are others who are confident about the way they love others but in truth do not love at all.
Why do I stress about love this much? Because I experienced true love firsthand for the first time last year when I got baptized as a Born Again Christian. And I cannot help but overflow to you. I know love now because I know God, who is love. (1 John 4:8)
That experience greatly changed the way I see and treat others. I embraced love fully. And again, with much emphasis, we cannot love our children according to God’s design and instruction if we have not received His love first.
Biblically speaking and as emphasized by my church and reiterated by many spiritual readings by Christian authors this is how I know love best: Love is a commitment towards imperfect people seeking their highest good and often requires sacrifice.
May I quote our Senior Pastor in CCF Peter Tan-chi for this definition.
Love is not a feeling. And neither is it based on feelings. Because feelings are fleeting and changing. You cannot marry a person based on feelings. What if today you wake up you feel like loving him and tomorrow you don’t? Can you imagine treating your children based on your feelings for the day? So no, love – true love – is not based on feelings but characterized by commitment, regardless of whether you feel loving towards the person or not.
Love should be given towards imperfect people. As the Bible says in Luke 6:32, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” We continue to love even when our loved ones fail and disappoint us. Perfection is never a pre-requisite to loving.
Love is neither selfish nor self-seeking. In love, you never think what you are to gain or what something good will it do for you. Love always has an outward orientation and seeks the best interest of the person you love – never how you will benefit.
Love requires sacrifice. It’s giving up something or making a way. Loving is never comfortable. It always needs effort to work and to continue to grow.
So how can you love? First by receiving it from The Source, who is Love Himself.
How do you continue to love? By grace.
Apart from God and His grace we cannot love imperfect people. We will easily give up on them and we will run out of love to give. “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)