Happy Valentine’s Day!
What a fitting day to discuss true love. When I was a kid, I used to collect those “Love is…” cartoons with the little naked couple by Kim Casali and Bill Asprey. (If you’re feeling nostalgic you can check them out here.)
As a kid, the simplicity and innocence of those cartoons left me with romantic notions of one day living with the man of my dreams and making sweet gestures just like that nameless couple… well not exactly like them… I am pretty sure I would not be prancing about in the nude!
As a grown up, and having experienced love and loss a few times, I know that the elementary tenets that the cartoon provided did not give the complete picture. There are a few things I’ve learnt the hard way, the easy way being I should have paid more attention to what God has clearly outlined for us in His Word. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far:
Before you can love someone else, you must love God.
I cannot begin to stress how important this is. The most important love commitment in your life should be God.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)
To truly love someone, you must have a relationship with God.Let’s delve deeper and play “connect the dots”.
John 14:21 says Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.
Romans 12:2 says Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Together these passages encourage us to obey God and to achieve this we must renew our mind (meaning we must read and study his Word). Finally reading his Word gives us insight on what it means to love others.
love God ••••• obey God ••••• read his Word ••••• learn to love others – dots connected!
Before you can love someone else, you must love yourself.
So you’ve probably heard this before. We all remember becoming crying milksops when Tom Cruise delivered that epic line in Jerry Maguire:….You complete me ….The truth is, we should be “complete” before we find a mate despite how romantic Tom/Jerry sounded. You should already be a complete person though hopefully developing into a more Christ-like person. And complete people are people who love themselves. This love is not to be confused with pride, selfishness or greed, all of which the Bible warns us against. Biblical self-love is healthy, understanding that you are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19) and you should feed and care for it (Eph 5:29).The Bible says the second greatest command after loving God is
Love your neighbour as yourself (Lev 19:18; Matt 22:38 NIV).
If you cannot love yourself or do not love yourself as you ought, your neighbour will never be loved as they ought either. As the old ladies like to say “Get your house in order before you invite guests”. (Okay I never actually heard an old lady say this but we can pretend!)
You choose who to love.
Wow that was a hard one for me to swallow the first time I thought about it. I always figured love was something that grew uncontrolled and beautiful based on the happenings within the relationship. And again, based on the happenings, love could shrink and depart just as quickly. However, Moses commanded Israel to
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deut 6:5; Matt 22:37 NIV).
With God as the greatest example of a recipient of our love, this implies that we have a choice to love (we being creatures with free will) and further we can choose how much to love. The choices we make and why we make them are definitely fodder for a future post.
It’s not about you.
It is so easy to get wrapped up in how you feel when you are in love. This is so dangerous. If your motivation for loving is feeling good, it’s a perversion of love as defined by the Word. Love considers the recipient most of all. The greatest testament to this is the popular excerpt from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13:4-7). Most importantly, verse 5 says that love is not self-seeking, but every other characteristic of love in this passage is about the lover’s behaviour towards the “lovee”. Patience, kindness, honour, protection, good will…. these are all about the person being loved.
Biblical love is the recipe for all relationships.
Up to now you’ve probably been thinking about theses teachings in terms of a man and a woman in a romantic relationship. The truth is your significant other is not the only “neighbour” you have. Love as defined by God’s word is applicable to all types of relationships: friends, parents, siblings, co-workers. God encourages love in the entire community.
So friends I’ll leave you with the gorgeous Tom Cruise as a reminder of what love is not about…. yes you may grab that Kleenex again but grab your Bible too and discover the true meaning of love. And let me know what you think in the comments ♥