I’ve had all sorts of relationships in the past – I’m not solely talking romantic ones, though those do factor in – and I’ve thought all along that I knew what love was and how it worked. It’s that feeling of butterflies in your stomach. It’s the uncontrollable smile on your face at a long-awaited reunion. It’s wanting someone in your life as much as possible. Right?
Well, maybe. But love goes deeper than that.
A lot of us are probably familiar with 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, the passage in the Bible that gets read at nearly every wedding. It outlines pretty much exactly what love is, insofar as what we humans with our finite minds can understand. If you look at this passage, really look at it, it’s completely mind blowing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
In looking at that, I realized something.
Love does not benefit the one who loves. To love someone is to be completely selfless, and to deny the needs of the self to meet the needs of the one you love. It is completely sacrificial.
Let’s take a look at God. He lost everything through loving us – He gave up His Son, He gave up His very self in His love for us. There is absolutely nothing in it for Him. We can’t do anything good to please Him. Our worship is nowhere near what He deserves. We can’t even come close to repay Him in any way.
But He still loves us. And He does so because He wants to. He does so even though there is nothing in it for Him.
I don’t know why. I look at myself and I just think, “How can you love me? How could you desire someone like me?”
But He does. He desires us. He longs for us. He loves us beyond all reason. His love is reckless and infinite and completely selfless.
There’s something even more awesome about God’s love. Take a look at Galatians 5:22. Here Paul writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Emphasis mine). God gives us his Spirit, which in turn produces the fruit of love within us. And not just any love, but God’s love – perfect, infinite, and completely selfless love.
The reason why this is so cool is that when God produces fruit within us, other people benefit from it. Like I said before, love isn’t about the lover, it’s about the love. And when we can show God’s love to others, the seed is sown.
So when we are called to love others, we can’t look to get anything out of it, not even warm fuzzy feelings. It’s not about us. It’s all about the one we love. And that sounds completely and utterly impossible.
And it is. Well, it is without God. But we have God, and the promise of His Spirit, which is living and active within us. His Spirit is producing fruit
It’s scary, and difficult, and frustrating to love other humans the way God loves us. We will fail. We will always screw it up somehow. But we can trust that God is working through us constantly. We can lean on His promises – that He gives us His Spirit and that He does all the work.
God is love. When we have God, we have His love – toward us, and toward others.