What love is and is not…
I Corinthians 13:4 – 7 says this: Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
In this beautiful depiction of godly love, the Apostle Paul describes what love does and does not do. In summary, true love considers the good of the other person. It is not based on feelings. We live in a day and time where decisions of how we treat people are made based on feelings rather than actual love. Love is not a feeling. Feelings fluctuate and change. Love is an action, a constant and a choice.
To help clarify this often-misunderstood word – love - consider the following examples:
What love is not – a feeling: After five years of marriage, Bill believes that he no longer “loves” his wife. When he reflects on the reasons why he does not love his wife anymore, he concludes that he really never did love her. He married her because they had been dating for several years and marrying her seemed like the “right thing” to do. Now he believes he made a mistake. He thinks that it will be best to leave his wife so that they can both go and find the “right one.” Their “soul mates” if you will. He tells his wife Sally that they need to separate and eventually divorce because they are not a good match for each other. She is crushed by this news. She doesn’t want to be separated or divorced from her husband. She wants the marriage to last. He insists that in time she will actually thank him for leaving her once she finds the man she is “supposed” to be with. He talks with his friends and explains the situation to them and of course they agree with his analysis. Bill believes he must be true to his feelings. His actions follow his feelings and he pursues a divorce from his wife.
What love is – a positive action: After 25 years of marriage, John’s wife had a major stroke. In the hospital, John discovered the severity of his wife’s injuries. She was completely paralyzed on one side of her body. Not only was her body affected but her mind was damaged as well. She would be able to walk but with an obvious handicap. Her speech would be difficult to understand. It seemed likely that even her personality had been altered. Her life was tragically changed as was John’s. She would not be able to do the things she used to do physically, emotionally or even mentally. John would no longer be just a husband but now a care provider for his wife. In the hospital, he commits to himself that he will do all he can for his wife. He loves her and will not leave her. He determines that they will go through this crisis together.
What does the Ultimate Example of Love look like? Jesus showed true love toward us when He stayed on the cross. Picture in your mind Jesus stretched out on a cross with his arms lashed to rough cross beams with leather straps. A Roman soldier holds a metal spike against Jesus’s wrist with a large wooden mallet raised and ready to strike the spike sending the nail through Jesus’s wrist. There is one blow to the nail, then another, then another. How does Jesus feel? What does He want to do? Does He want to escape the pain? Probably. I would. Does He? No. He stays on the cross. The Roman soldier moves to the next wrist. The process is repeated. What was Jesus’s emotional state? At that time, after the beating, carrying the cross, flipped on his wounded back onto a splintery cross, hammer blows on the nail the nail penetrating his wrists – is Jesus having doubts? Is He thinking about Himself? Maybe – but He does not let his own interest or his own self-preservation decide His course of action. (The Bible tells us that at any time He could have called 12 legions of angels to rescue Him.) Jesus continues the path that would lead to His agonizing death, burial, ultimate resurrection and our salvation. He is thinking about the other. He is thinking about the good of us. This is love.
What type of love are we showing toward others? A feelings-based love or a godly action? We have the choice to love others – not only those close to us but even our enemies.