The concept of love has changed in the past years to the point that many now, even churches, do not know what love really is. When you say love, people think of romance and fluffy feelings. It has become something that you cannot control, it just happens, and as a result comes and goes at its own will seemingly. But is that biblical?
First, what is love according to the Bible? Love is not a feeling or emotion, it is an action. Love is sacrifice.
Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 (NASB)
But sacrifice involves more than dying for someone. Sacrifice is giving anything up for another. It is doing something you don’t like for the sake of someone else. Sacrifice is putting the other person first in any situation at any cost.
Love is putting another person above yourself, considering them first and as more important. Any time that you do something, and you are motivated by yourself, that is not love. Even if you are doing a good thing for someone else, it is only love if your motive is for them and not yourself, if they are the only one to benefit and not yourself. Anything self motivated is sin.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4. (NASB)
There are many good things you can do that are still wrong because you are serving yourself. If you give someone a ride because they have no car, but you do it grudgingly, that is selfish. If you help someone paint their house expecting them to help you with something in turn, that is selfish. If you lead worship at church because you are capable and you know you are supposed to serve even though you don’t want to or you look down on others for not doing it, that is selfish. It is still obedient, but it is not out of love.
Love is serving another person for that person’s good, not your own, even if that means doing something you don’t like or giving up something that you do like. Christ called us to be servants, even He came to serve rather than to be served. What is the difference between a slave and a servant? A slave does the minimum requirement, a servant does the maximum potential. Are you a slave or a servant in your marriage? In your faith? In your church?
What does love look like? Practically speaking, there are many ways to love. You love someone by being kind to them even if they mistreat you. You love them by helping even if you don’t feel like it, or have something better to do. You love your kids by having tea with them even though the cups are empty and you feel like a fool in a tutu. You love your wife by helping her with the dishes even if it means missing the end of the football game. You love your husband by genuinely being interested in his fishing stories and going out on the boat with him (and having a good attitude about it), even if you hate fishing.
You love by showing interest in the other person and their likes and hobbies even if you don’t care about that activity or subject. That does not mean just listening when they want to talk about it, but actually being interested in it. Ask questions about it, even help them with some part of it. You show love by giving them your undivided attention even if you have problems to deal with, by making time for the other person. Listen to them and genuinely pay attention to what they have to say. Don’t listen in order to put in your two cents, but truly show interest in what they are saying.
Love would do what makes the other person feel loved without being asked, and even without asking if help is needed, just doing what needs to be done. If you ask if someone needs help, take the initiative to actually do something. Don’t just take their word that they can handle it. Love is active. Learn what they need from you.
Love “is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered.” 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NASB)
Love does not take offense. There are many opportunities to be offended, but love chooses to give the other person the benefit of the doubt and to not keep a record of what has been done against it. Love chooses to not stand up for its rights but to put the other person first. Love chooses to forgive rather than hold on to the pain. “Love covers all transgressions.” Proverbs 10:12. (NASB) Love remembers that we are all sinners and no one is any different than another except by the grace and work of God. Love makes allowances for the faults of others. Love chooses to forget. Love does not seek retaliation, revenge or even justice for itself.
Love is humble. It does not brag about itself or put others down. It is always thankful, never complaining. It does not bring up a person’s mistakes or tell others about a person’s faults. Love is faithful and loyal. It does not give up on someone or lose hope. Love is lead by the Spirit of God and not by emotions or situations. Love is not hasty but wise. Love does not make jokes at another’s expense. Love always thinks of what is best for another and errs on the side of caution lest another be hurt. 1 Corinthians 13 is the best passage in the Bible to learn about love.
Above all, love acts for the sake of the other. All of these can be done with selfish motives, but then it would not be love. What we do is only love if we are solely motivated by the good of another.
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
1 John 3:16-18 (NASB)