“Jesus loves you!”
This phrase is printed on t-shirts, posters, mugs… you name it. I even have it set as the wallpaper on my phone! But how often do we actually stop and think about those words? Do we fully understand the depth of that truth? What is love anyway?
Oxford describes love as, “an intense feeling of deep affection.” But I believe it is so much more than that. I believe love is not just this warm and fuzzy feeling you get in your heart. Feelings come and go, and the heart has been known to lie (Jeremiah 17:9). Love is so much deeper than that.
I did not fully understand the love that God has for us until I noticed examples of His love in others. Examples that I got to experience firsthand. So again, I ask, what is love really
Love is sacrificial
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.
I learned sacrificial love from my mom and dad. They have done so much for me and my brother and sister that I cannot even begin to describe it all. It has been such a blessing to call them my parents.
My siblings and I were homeschooled. My mom diligently taught us from preschool until our graduation. I remember watching my mom plan all summer long for our school year, picking out books, videos, and other resources. She spent countless hours throughout the year checking our work and grading our papers. There were times I remember waking up in the middle of the night on Sunday to find my Mom still up, finishing her preparations for our school week. She’d wake us up the next day with tired eyes to teach and never complained. My mom sacrificed her days to teach us and her nights to prepare lessons for us. She sacrificed her sleep and her time to give us a good education.
My dad always told my siblings and I that he would always be there when we needed him. And he was. No matter when or where. There was a time when I called my dad in the middle of the night from the bathroom floor at a friend’s house. I had gotten sick and was too dizzy to drive myself home. “I’m on my way,” he said. Less than 30 minutes later, my dad helped me into the car, gave me some water, and took me home. The next day, he picked up my car and brought it home while I slept. My dad sacrificed his comfort and sleep to come and take care of me and never once said he would rather be doing something else.
Just as my parents made sacrifices for me and my siblings, God made sacrifices for you and for me. God is perfect, we are not. We’ve all sinned. But God sacrificed His Son Jesus, whom He loved more than anything, to watch Him die a painful death so you and I could be saved and spend forever with Him in eternity
Love is patient
“Love is patient and kind…” 1 Corinthians 13:4.
I entered into my first romantic relationship when I was 20 years old. I had been on a couple dates before but besides that, I had no experience and I had a lot to learn. Amongst the joy and excitement this relationship brought me, I also faced fear and anxiety. There were things I believed about myself and others, as well as experiences I had in the past that prevented me from being fully present and vulnerable in the relationship. Little things would trigger me and send me into minor anxiety attacks. I would often feel guilty about the things he had to endure with me and believed that he would be better off with someone who wasn’t like this. But he stayed.
He would talk things through with me and encourage me to share what I was thinking. He was always close by when I was anxious and didn’t leave my side until I recovered. He started to recognize my triggers and was careful to help me avoid them. He never got frustrated with me when I was struggling to be vulnerable, but rather invited me to open up whenever I was ready. He always replaced lies I was believing with the truth. He was patient because he loved me.
God shows perfect patience and love to us daily. No matter how many times we mess up and go against what He commands, He forgives and gives us another chance (1 John 1:9). No matter how many times we make the same mistake, no matter how many times we regress, no matter how many times we walk away from Him, He invites us back in. He will never leave our side or tells us we are too far gone. God is patient because of the love He has for us.
Love is an action
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18
Someone can say the words “I love you” over and over again, but how can you tell that they mean it? If someone told you they love you, but they talk about you negatively behind your back, would you believe them? If someone told you they love you, but they are rude, put you down, and never make an effort to see you, would you believe them? It is easy to say that you love someone, but unless you are putting in the work to actually show them love, you have nothing.
I’ve seen love in action countless times. When my friend saw me struggling to carry a full gas can from the car to the garage, he stood up to take it from me without a word and carried it for me. When I was going through a breakup, my cousin sent me a little basket of my favorite things and a sweet letter. When I was feeling insecure about myself, my friend covered me in truth about my identity in Christ.
As I was struggling, these sweet friends did not tell me they loved me, rather they showed me that they loved me. God does not just tell us He loves us (John 13:34), but He showed us His love by sending Jesus to us to forgive our sins (Romans 5:8), by listening to our prayers (1 Peter 3:12) and providing for us (Matthew 6:25-34).
Love has a name
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8.
All of these examples of love that I have experienced through others have painted a picture of the love God has for me. And we, as image-bearers of God (Genesis 1:27), are called to go out and love others (John 13:34). Why? Because God is the definition of love.
We can learn what love really is by reading the Bible. It is filled with examples of what love is and what love isn’t. And knowing what love is, is knowing God.
What about you?
Are you trying to find the real meaning behind ‘what is love’? The answer is simple. God is love. God loves you and me every day. No matter what. God loves you even when you don’t love Him back. God loves you when you are far from Him. God loves you when you do exactly the things He hates. He loves you anyway. So, when the people around you are being less than perfect, how will you respond? Will you choose to respond in love? Invest in your relationship with the Lord by reading the Bible, attending a worship service, or joining a group and watch as you grow in love for the people around you.