Have you ever wondered what LOVE really is?
What is love? So much poetry and beautiful pose have been written over the millennia's of human experience to try to capture its purpose and meaning. All of humanity in all cultures, places and time has sought out the meaning of love. They have done this through experience, emotionalism, experimentation, seeking desires, trying to add logic and reasoning to it, seeking a higher being to name a few. In my personal quest for love in my youth, I focused on music. Two of my favorite songs way back when I was dating was, "Love is a Many Splendor Thing" and "I want to Know What Love is". Both of these songs ask the question, what is love. As with many love songs, these two did it with high energy and enthusiasm. That love was exciting and inviting, and is only found in anther person. That the person you seek will fill that void of loneliness and add meaning and purpose to your existence. Perhaps you have a favorite love song that motivates you, and thrills you with feelings of anticipation and excitement.
From seeking romantic love and fulfillment we will eventually cross into theological love. As many people have said that God Himself is pure love, to the point that all of God is, is love. Leaving out the rest of His characteristics. Thus, love runs the full spectrum from romanticism and the quest for personal satisfaction to God and the meaning of life.
The other end of the quest for love is to ignore it or use it wrong. Not loving, or loving the wrong thing will lead us far away from God's truth and perfect plan for us. The wrong use of love can be sin. When we do something wrong against God it not only affects us the individual, but it also affects everyone around us, family, friends, and the body of Christ; even God Himself: (who is hurt by sin, because God is Holy and His character and who He is remains un-affected; however He is sadden that we chose to ignore Him and seek false truths and created things over the Creator). Sin is a disease that spreads and builds into each other just like cancer. It will start with a single cell that builds upon itself, then that cell multiples and mutates until it starts spreading into the whole system. Then malignancy occurs when the spread is not reversible and soon affecting the entire body. In the case of the Christian, false love and pride will affect the whole life of the person not just the physical body, but also the body of Christ. What does sin effect, what does improper love do? The body of Christ, the people who claim Jesus as Lord, and those we are in fellowship together can be affected and even destroyed. Then the gospel and the Truth muted!
So what is love? Well let's find out by seeking love through His Word.
First Corinthians 13 states: "if I speak in the tongues of man and of Angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift or prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (I Corinthians 13:1-8 NIV)
What Love is
This passage is our template on how we must behave towards one another and towards those around us. We can do our best in preaching the gospel with power and conviction, and have a church filled with wonderful programs and staffed with gifted people. We can be in a magnificent cathedral reaching upwards and manifesting and pointing to the glory of God; but, if we're doing it for ourselves, out of selfish gain and not out of real love, we accomplished nothing. We become just an annoying noise to our neighbors who we are called to reach. The proper use of our abilities and gifts as a Christian is always within the parameters of love: As God Himself works through all of His characteristics in love (I John 4: 7-12).
When a computer is programmed, the program runs because the language has instructed what the program is to do. Within this language of computers there are operational instructions called parameters, which tells the program what it can and cannot do, thus the program can only operate within its own guidelines called parameters. We must look at this passage as our parameter, as our guideline and how we must execute the gifts we are given and exercise the passion of what Christ has done on our behalf and proclaim the truth.
What Love Means
This passage in I Corinthians 13:1-8 shows us the path and way of or Christian life and walk. As Christians we are to imitate Christ, and work within His parameters, which is love. This passage is a character description of who Christ is, and this passage must also be our character description of how we are to act and behave responsibly in all that we do.What love is not is as important as what love is!
When God tells us that love is patient He means we are to give others room to grow, and time to accomplish the work that God is doing in them. When someone is abrupt with us, or someone treats us wrongly we are called be patient, because we cannot have everything our way all the time, right now. We cannot allow ourselves to become angry when others fail to our expectations that we set for them. Because God is patient with us, and God loves us; then, we are to show patience with others. We need to be content and not become angry, for this is love: love never gives up.
When God tells us that love is kind, He means we are to look for the best in other people. We are to spend our energies and time encouraging and building up each other, and not tearing others down. You see God takes our circumstances of life and builds them in a constructive way for personal growth and are for better use toward each other. God is not treating us as an object to be manipulated and controlled because He has given us free well, so we should do the same with each other. Therefore we always need to be seeking the healing of relationships, and be cautious in our judgments toward others. Love cares more about others that it does for ourselves.
When God tells us that love does not envy, He means we need to be happy for who we are and what I am. When we hear that a friend receives a promotion before we do, or gets something that we wanted we are to be happy for them. If we have a sibling who excels better than we are, we should be happy with them. If our neighbor has a brand-new car we should be happy for them, and be thankful for the old wreck that we may drive. That is we are to be happy for someone else who has something we don't have even if we don't like it. That we do not become possessive and control freaks, especially in other people situations, and our relationships. Being possessive and controlling others will destroy a church very quickly, or the very least neuter its effectiveness. Love is letting go of our desires and will for a greater love we cannot receive on our own: grace. Love does not desire which it does not have.
When God tells us that love does not boast, He means we are not to go around bragging about our accomplishments and abilities. We are not to go around showing off our possessions, so in doing we are condescending to those who do not have such things. We are not to be so full of our accomplishments we fail to see what others have accomplished too. Because God loves us so much we should have no need to impress each other, but allow God to impress us with His greatness because He is God and we are not. We can relax and enjoy who we are in Christ, that we do not have to be in control, or be the life of the party to feel secure. Love is the security we have in Christ that needs nothing else for fulfillment. Love does not strut around.
When God tells us that love is not proud, He means we must be willing to be in relationships with all kinds of people especially those outside are perceived background and race. That we do not let our fears hold us back from one of life's most precious gifts: friendship. Not being proud means that when we make a mistake we own up to that, and we admit that we are wrong even when we feel we aren't. Because God loves us He is on our side, and wants us to grow and mature in His love. We do not have to have an inflated ego about the perceived importance of ourselves. We need to seek others first and their well being, and not our arrogance and egocentric mentality. Love lifts up God and not ourselves. Love does not parade itself.
When God tells us that love is not rude, He means that we treat others with the respect and dignity that we would like in return. Because God loves us He sent His Son to cover us and protect as from His wrath, thus when we make the mistakes that we do or even the big mistakes, we are not zapped by lightning bolts. Because we are loved by Christ we are not consumed by God's wrath as we deserve. So in return, we should not go around with pride and commencement judging and zapping others with evil looks and condescending comments, thinking that we are high and mighty, and better than everyone else. Never think of yourself is as the Capstone and the most important piece of the puzzle, because you're not, we should be grateful that God chooses to use us. Our goal is to work together; and not be little dictators. Love cannot be in the same room as pride or apathy. Love does not force its self.
When God tells us that love is not self-seeking, He means that we place others first and not ourselves. That we are to be considerate appreciative, not critical, and dignified as good manners would dictate to one another. Because God loves us so much He did not have a self-seeking attitude, for if He did He would never have sent His Son on our behalf. Every Christian must respect the rights and dignity of other people and never force our will and thoughtless behaviors onto others. We need to be happy when others around us experience success and growth, and never be jealous. Love is the seeking of His truth and finding away to bring it to others. Love does not have a "me first" attitude.
When God tells us that love is not easily angered, He means just that, we are to become very slow to get angry, and we do not let little things cause us to fly off the handle. Because God loves us so much He did not allow His anger to wipe us out of existence when we so much deserved it, instead He allowed His drama of redemption to unfold throughout history climaxing with Christ. We need to try to understand other people, and place ourselves in each other's shoes respectfully. We need to listen and not allow our hostile feelings to get the best of us. Sense God is patiently working in us; we should reciprocate with the understanding of the debt we have to God and the unfathomable love and concern He has for us. Love put us in others shoes. Love is not touchy and resentful and does not fly off a handle.
When God tells us that love keeps no record of wrongs, He means we don't go around with a list writing down the faults of one another. Rather we are to look for the positive things that happen in our relationships and affirm people. That we do not go around with a negative attitude; but, one that is positive, enthusiastic and equipping to God's people. Because God loves us so much He does not keep a scorecard of our sins as long as we honestly repent from them. We do not need to reflect and gossip about the flaws of other people so to elevate ourselves, when God refuses to do it to us. Love lets things such as resentment and anger go, so they do not build. Love does not keep a scorecard.
When God tells us that love does not delight in evil, He means we don't enjoy when bad things happen to others. That we not only do not need to enjoy doing bad things to each other, but we refuse to allow evil to happen. That we should feel bad when we see others being hurt. Compassion is one of God's great characteristics, and we should strive our fullest to model it to each other. Because God loves us so much He is deeply grieved when we do not follow His example and His will. We are not to put others down, so to make ourselves feel good about ourselves. Love is hurt even when an enemy is down. Love does not delight in evil.
When God tells us that love rejoices in truth, He means when we see injustice corrected, and people treating others with respect, kindness, and honestly, we should feel wonderful. Because God loves us so much we should live our lives so that it reflects a God of truth and justice. Thus, we should find delight when we see justice being played out in others. As Christians we should get excited when justice prevails, and we should be mad and do something when injustice occurs, and peoples rights being violated. We should realize how much God rejoices when we personally stand up to the pressures of life and prevail with integrity and truth. God's Word is His love and truth, when we get into it and live it we are showing Christ the Love He deserves. Love takes pleasure in truth.
When God tells us that love always protects, He means we should feel protected and in return protect those around us. This does not mean we become security guards, it means our actions and attitudes are such that they project protection, and not destruction. Because God loves us so much He does not forsake us, even though others may. Because people will always disappoint us, and we will always be disappointing to those around us; but: God will never disappoint us. Love preserves, and is the easier route than running off and abandoning our relationships that we have committed too. We should realize how much God grieves when we fail to walk the life of His path, when we do not trust His protection. Love is always on the lookout for others best interests and protection where gossip and strife cannot function. Love has staying power.
When God tells us that love always hopes, then we should be assured He will give us a future. We should be assured that when things are going bad they will always get better, that there is hope because our circumstances will always change. We should never lose hope. Because God loves us so much He always has hope for us. God is patiently working in us, and when we understand what God has truly done for us, then we should have as much hope, as we could ever need. Love will see the potential in other people, what they can accomplish and become, and not hold them back out of our jealously. Love always is enduring and points to the future.
When God tells us that love always preserves, He means for us to hang in there and keep going strong. Because God loves us so much He will stand with us, and even carry us through our difficulties and upsets. Even when we feel we reached rock bottom and have no hope, and are filled with despair, God is carrying us, because He loves us. This is the love that will destroy rumors and gossip and cause us to believe the best about each other until proven otherwise by facts. Love carries to us the ultimate hope and points us to the cross and the eternity to come. Because what we do and learn here on earth will echo for entity. Love refuses to quit.
God's love must be our model for life and Church!
It must flow into us by who Christ is, and in return flow out of us to those around us. God's love is the ultimate power for the Christian. We are to be fueled and empowered by love through all situations. Because Christian love is the turning of our backs to our self-concerns, and then facing forward to our neighbors. It is the surrender of our will to His. Because if love does not take you beyond your self-interest, then what you have is lust and not love! Then as the passage says, you are just noise that has no reason our purpose. Out of true love God the Father gave us His Son, the Son gave us His life in replacement of our own. The Son sent the Spirit to save us, and we should be literally overwhelmed, and be consumed with extreme joy and gratitude by what God has done for us.
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Director of 'Into Thy Word Ministries, 'a Mission and Discipling ministry. He is the author of the book, "Into Thy Word" and is also a pastor, teacher, speaker and a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena California and has amounted over 20 years of pastoral ministry experience, including serving as a church growth consultant.
© 2002 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org/