May 25, 2013

So, this is love

When the gentle rain showers of May turn to giant flakes of snow and collide with you and your friend's plans for the day, one option is to crash in her grandma's basement and watch "old" Disney movies. So, that's what we did. I personally think that you are never to old to watch them...and to add a fun twist to it, try assigning your friends and family different characters based on their personality. The results tend to be quite amusing.

While watching Cinderella, it was pointed out that this world has got love all mixed up. I mean, seriously, what "prince" in real life sees a pretty girl wandering about a ballroom, looses sight of all else, takes her on a romantic waltz in the moonlight (while they hum in harmony), and hardly speaks a word to her? And then after he searches the entire kingdom for her after she runs away and drops her glass slipper, they get married and live happily ever after. I'll have to give it to them - Disney's got this love thing down. So simple. So perfect. So romantic. So...unrealistic?

Is this perhaps what our world has reduced love to? Feelings and high expectations? If so, it's no wonder that there are so many broken relationships and hurting hearts. Boy meets girl, there is no denial that "love is in the air", they are all happy and cute for awhile, expectations aren't met, feelings leave, and the relationship is over. End of story. And it doesn't just happen in "romantic relationships". Sadly, it's a all-too-common issue in the relationships of friends and family members as well. I'm sure that each of us could list at least one family that we know who struggles with hurting relationships - whether it be between husband and wife, brothers and sisters, or children and parents.

But I get the feeling that there is more to love than this world makes it out to be. I don't think that this is what God's version of love is. Somewhere along the line we've missed the point and turned love into something based on unstable emotions and temporary desires of the heart.

So, what is TRUE love - God's version? We are told, "As I (Jesus) have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34). But how are we to extend that love towards others if we can't define what that love looks like?

True love is unconditional.
It loves even when love isn't deserved. Think of it - God didn't love us because we deserved it. In fact, we deserve death! But God chose to love us despite that fact, and asks us to love others in the same way. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8). God didn't love us because we could give Him something in return - He loved us even while we were still wallowing in our sinful nature.

True love is others-focused.
Too often love is self-focused. We say "I love you", but in reality what we may be saying is "I love what you do for me or how you make me feel." True love isn't focused on what I can get from this relationship/friendship/etc., it's about asking, "How can I do what is best for YOU". It wants what is best for the other person, even if it causes us loss or pain. Christ didn't die on the cross because it was an enjoyable or comfortable experience, but He loved us so much that He sacrificed His life. "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." (1 John 3:16)

True love is a choice.
It's not based on feelings, because love based on feelings will quickly fail. Sometimes we have to choose to love, even when we don't feel like it. "It (love) always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1 Corinthians 13:7). The dictionary definition of persevere is: To continue in a course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no indication of success. Yep, I'm pretty sure that even includes those times when you are annoyed with someone, they are being mean to you, or you just don't feel like it (ever have those sort of days?).

The contrast between the world's version of love and God's version is even more black and white than the differences between a mocha frappe and a cockroach. There really is no comparison because they are two totally different things. Sometimes I wonder what the world would look like if every single one of us chose to trade in the world's cheap imitation version of love for the true love of God. How would that change our families, our friendships, our churches, our communities, and our countries?

God has given us His Word, that we may know Him more and get a glimpse of this amazing love that He has given to us. And the cool thing? God's love is applicable to all people, all situations. No matter what stage of life you are at, the love of God is one thing that you can extend towards everyone you come in contact with. You have freely been given the love of God - so freely share it with others.

Just as a quick side note, it's quite interesting to look at love in this light when it is referenced in the Bible. Try checking out Matthew 22:37-39 for starters....I'd love to hear what you discover!