Our culture is all about love. We make movies about it, dedicate holidays to it and generally make a big deal out of being in love. From what I hear, being in love is great. I wouldn’t know, but that’s what they tell me. The prevailing cultural attitude towards love, however, is not good at all. If our culture is to be believed (spoilers: it’s not) love is just tingly feelings and sex, and when the feelings go away or the sex isn’t novel you’re not in love and the relationship’s over. Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds horrible.
Thankfully, that’s not what love is. Love is more than weird feeling you get when your crush looks at you, that’s called attraction. It’s certainly more than sex; duh. This version is inherently focused on the self. It’s about how the person doing the loving feels about the person they love, rather than the person being loved on. The Bible lays out an entirely different vision of what love is and it is, unsurprisingly, better, if more difficult, than what the world offers.
Unlike the world’s idea of love, biblical love is focused on the person being loved, rather than the one doing the loving. According to the Bible, love isn’t something you feel, rather it is something you do. Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is focused almost entirely on how love treats others.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
That’s why Jesus could say to love your enemies. You’re not going to feel warm tingly feelings towards your enemies; that’s human nature, but you can treat them with love. The same applies to someone to whom you are attracted romantically. I think Voddie Baucham summarized it well when he said “love is an act of the will, accompanied by emotion, that seeks the benefit of its object”. If you really love that person of the opposite sex, you will put his or her needs and wants ahead of your own, even if you don’t feel like it. I would even go so far as to argue that it’s more loving to put the person you love first, when you don’t feel like it. It’s easy to put someone first when you want to, but when you prioritize their needs at the expense of your ‘me time’, then you’re really showing that you care.
It’s easy to talk about ‘putting others first’ and ‘seeking their benefit’, but what does it look like? Paul said love is patient; if you love someone, you should suppress your annoyance when they do something dumb (even though you never do anything dumb) or inconvenience you. You should be willing to put up with all manner of stupid crap coming from or surrounding a person you truly love. Guys, if she’s telling you about her day, listen and don’t rush her, even if it’s super boring. Gals, don’t get offended if he compares your cooking to his mother’s, even though it’s insensitive. Guys, don’t rush her if she’s hogging the bathroom and making you late. Gals, don’t wig out when he forgets your anniversary like an insensitive clod.
I could go on like this for pages, but you get the idea. Everyone does stupid, insensitive things. The loving thing to do is to let it slide. (Obviously, this doesn’t apply to abuse.) A simple rule for loving behavior is to treat the other person as more important than yourself. This is not a feeling that you have, but rather it is a choice you make. As you continue to make that choice it will, typically, engender a positive emotional response, to be sure, but love is first and foremost something you do, not something you feel.
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