A high school classmate of mine (Bellaire, 1985), Greg Stanford, asked me to write an article on the true meaning of love.
The concept of love is such a mess in our world. It’s hard to get a handle on it. Teens and even pre-teens fall in and out of “love” while adults tsk tsk their seemingly frivolous relationships, talking about how “love is a commitment.” All the while we burn through divorce lawyers at an alarming rate.
We won’t get much farther in our understanding, either, until we understand that our love and inclination to love is an echo of the God who made us in His image. When we understand what it means to Him, we will stand a chance at applying it to our world in a meaningful way.
The Bible defines love pretty clearly:
1 John 4:7-12
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [sacrifice of atonement] for our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us.
[sacrifice...] – mine, emphasis – mine
God created everything and made humanity in His image as the centerpiece of creation and we, all of us, turned away from Him. So for God, “Love” is that He pursued us and sacrificed of Himself to redeem us. That we love God is in response to Him loving us first and demonstrating that to us. He has wooed us with sacrificial redemption.
Sacrificial redemption. We need to apply that to our relationships and see what happens.
When we sacrifice ourselves in order to redeem others we woo them into a mutual love. This is the image of God in us.
I know. You were expecting me to quote 1 Corinthians 13 in discussing the meaning of love. That passage is great at describing how true love acts. 1 John 4 describes what true love is.
But, so that you aren’t disappointed… If we seek to redeem through self sacrifice, it should look a lot like this:
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, 5 does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. 6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.