The next post in the LOVE series will be up tomorrow, Wednesday, October 1, 2014 around noon. Be on the lookout. Tell your friends. Get excited! Topic: Types of Love
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What Does the Bible have to Say about Love?
As we defined earlier, love is a strong feeling of affection, loyalty, and concern for someone. When studying love, the Bible is the perfect source. God’s love for us is the perfect example of love and therefore the perfect starting point to do a study on love.
The Bible is full of scripture on love. In my favorite translation of the Bible, the New International Version, “love” is mentioned 319 times in the Old Testament and 232 times in the New Testament, for a total of 551 times.
The Bible talks about love in many different ways from love for Christ, Christ’s love for us, loving others, and even provides a definition of love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 defines love as this, “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…” (New International Version).
These verses describe the characteristics of true love and found throughout the Bible in the life of Jesus and through God’s love for us.
There can be no talk on what love is without first understanding God’s love for us – a love that has given pathway to an eternal life. God’s love for us is so strong that He sacrificed His only Son, so that whomever believes in Him will not die but have everlasting life (John 3:16). How strong of a love is that?!?! I am a parent of two wonderful little boys and I do not think there is any way I could ever sacrifice either of my children so that someone else could live. However, God’s love for us is strong enough that He could do that. It is a love so strong, that as a parent, I cannot comprehend this magnitude of love.
Not only did He sacrifice His son, His love for us is so strong that he allowed His son to die for us even while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). Now, I already admitted to not being able to sacrifice my children for someone else to live – but to allow my child to die for a sinner… there is no way I could ever do that! I cannot even fathom that thought! How can God love us so much that He would allow His son to die for us? A bunch of sinners? That has to be the most powerful love that could ever exist. It is the true and ultimate example of what real love is.
Even greater than God’s ability and willingness to sacrifice His Son for us sinners, the Bible states that nothing is ever strong enough to “separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:37-39).
God’s example of love is overwhelming. It is a love no human being can truly comprehend. So, therefore, how are we to use God’s example of love to define and understand love for ourselves? It is actually quite simple – we know God’s love and so we must rely on the love God has for us, because GOD IS LOVE. (1 John 4:16). Relying on God’s love allows our love for each other to be complete, giving us confidence in our lives. While we are in this world, we are representatives of His love (1 John 4:17). We love ourselves and love others because of God’s abiding love for us. It is in response to His love for us that we share that love with all whom we meet from our family and friends to our neighbors or strangers to the person we share our life. When we understand God’s love and demonstrate that love, we reveal to others several things about who we are. 1 John chapter 4 gives six clear demonstrations of what we show others through love. In verse 7, loving one another demonstrates that we are God’s child. In verse 8, loving another demonstrates we know God’s love. Verse 11 and 21 says that by loving one another we demonstrate our obedience to God. Verse 12, by loving one another, we demonstrate that God indwells us. Verse 17 indicates that loving one another demonstrates our confidence in Christ. Lastly, verse 20 suggests loving one another demonstrates we are truthful. God also tells us why we should love one another. In verse 19 and 20, He says we should love others because He loves us. More importantly, in verse 20, God commands us to love another.
What the Bible has shown me about love repeatedly is that love is an action, not an emotion. In every example of love in the Bible, love is not used an emotional expression, but it an action that displays love – such as God sacrificing His Son, which was an action of love, not an emotion of love. Jesus Christ was devoted enough and loved us enough to give His own life (Romans 5:8), even though He did not feel like doing it (Matthew 26:39). Therefore, love is not simply a way we feel. A friend of mine, Dewayne Searcy, said this, the Bible has taught me that we must “decide to [love] even if you think they do not deserve it. Love is a decision, not an emotion.” The Christian Answers Network says, “Love is best seen as devotion and action, not an emotion.”
This does not mean that emotions are not involved in love and they are certainly criteria for love. Nevertheless, if we look closely at the Bible, we clearly see that true love is a devotion that leads to action; “dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with ACTION and in truth” (1 John 3:18). If you truly love someone, then you show it by how you act towards that person.
We can only truly identify real love based on the Word of God. God’s Word will show us when we have found real love. It is only when we match our relationship with what the Bible says about love that we become truly prepared to make that lifelong commitment to love. One of my best friends, Micky White, says this, “The Bible has taught me that if you place God first in a relationship, and build your relationship around His trust… love will conquer all.” We have to look at the Word of God, be completely honest with ourselves, and understand the level of commitment that comes from true love.
Let us SHOW our love with our ACTIONS as Christ has shown His love through His actions.
Recently, I started reading the book Yes or No, by Jeff Shinabarger. The book is about making everyday decisions that will forever shape your life. Chapter three was on love and how love shapes your decisions. However, when I read the chapter, it spoke to me in a way that was far beyond how love shapes our decisions. The chapter talked about how love is contagious and how our decisions match our love. How where we spend our time and money shows where our love lies. That what we love and whom we love is the starting place for making decisions. All of this got me thinking on a deeper level though. It made me start questioning what love really is and are we even truly capable of loving. So, today’s blog is on love. However, as I started writing this, it quickly dawned on me that there is just want too much on the topic of Love to put in one post. It would be an overwhelming amount of information. So, God has laid it on my heart to turn this post into a series on Love. The series will include the definition of love and defining love for ourselves, do we need love, why we should love, what love can do for us, the types of love, how we should show love, and are we capable of loving.
What is Love? Love is such an incredibly powerful word that describes the most spectacular, indescribable, deep euphoric feeling. Oliver Wendell Holmes says, “Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness.” It is an unconditional affection with no limits or conditions.
Merriam-Webster defines love as a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person. It is a feeling of profound tenderness, passion, and attachment.
Rainer Maria Rilke says, “Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.” I think Rilkes best describes what love is.
To me, being in love involves always wanting to be around that person, and when you are not, you are constantly thinking about them because you have this strong desire to be with that person – without them, your life simply feels incomplete. It involves trust and the desire to do anything for that person. When you love someone, you want nothing more than to be there for him or her and to do whatever it takes to make him or her happy. You put their needs before your own. Love drives you to want to be affectionate and devoted and sacrifice for them. It is intense, powerful, and passionate. It makes the world seem brighter, life seem happier, and everything more wonderful. Mark Twain says is best when he says, “Love is the irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.”
I believe there is one word that frees us from all the weight and pain of life: and that word is love.
It is important to understand what love is and what love is not. True love is caring, attraction, attachment, commitment, and intimacy.
CARE – When you truly love someone, you care for them physically and emotionally – ensuring you meet all their needs from food in their bellies to roofs over their heads to wrapping them in an embrace when they are sad – showing you care through respect and understanding, being kind and generous. “A simple smile, nice words, or hug can go a long way,” Richard Doughty.
ATTRACTION – Attraction and chemistry are crucial to lasting love. It allows two people to form a bond and become partners, no longer being two separate individuals. Without romantic desires, a relationship is nothing more than lust and infatuation and it will not last.
ATTACHMENT – Attachment comes after attraction. It is a long-term love that appears at some point in a relationship. It sneaks up on you, and when it does, you cannot deny that you have it. It is the point where you can honestly say, “I have seen the worst and the best you have to offer, and I still love you.”
COMMITMENT – When it comes to the heart, commitment is essential. It is the knowledge that your partner cares for you and has your back no matter the circumstances. Even when there is something negative in the relationship, there is such a commitment, attraction, and attachment that you can still only see the good in that person – only see the positive.
INTIMACY – Intimacy is crucial in any relationship. In order to know one another, you need to share parts of yourself with your partner. It is a self-revealing behavior and when reciprocated, forms an emotional bond that can never be broken. Over time, this bond will strengthen and evolve allowing the two people to merge closer and closer together. Intimacy itself is a friendship.
On the other hand, love is not manipulation, compromising who you are, or violent. In love, you do not manipulate the other person. You do not compromise your values or who you are. However, this does not mean there should not be little changes made to your life – like putting down the toilet seat or putting the cap back on the toothpaste. Lastly, at no point is love violent – a relationship with physical or emotional violence is not true love!
Nicholas Sparks says this about love, “Love is more than three words mumbled before bedtime. Love is sustained by action, a pattern of devotion in the things we do for each other every day.”
Everyone has a different definition of love. A friend of mine, Richard Doughty, described love as this, “Love is a feeling that brings a smile to your face. It is knowing that something or someone is there to help you if you are in need. It is a feeling that someone is there for you no matter how good or bad your day was.” Another friend, Dewayne, said, “Love is unconditional, and requires trust and friendship.”
Everyone’s definition of love differs to some extent; and the first step in understanding what love is requires defining love for you. Therefore, here is your challenge: take a second, write down your thoughts and feeling on what love means to you, and determine your definition of love. While doing this, break your definition of love down like a psychologist, into three components: passion, intimacy, and commitment. Passion is the underlying physical desire, sexual behavior, and arousal – the physical side of love. Intimacy is the emotional aspect of love – closeness, connections, warmth, security, and friendship. Lastly, commitment is the decision-making part – the choice of choosing to love and the willingness to work on love daily. A very close friend of mine could not have said it better than this, “Love is a choice. You have to wake up every day and decide to love someone no matter how wrong they have done you that day or the night before. You have to love them and see them the way God does.” LOVE IS A CHOICE!!! And, it’s one we have to make daily. Point blank.
“Love gets harder when we get honest. True maturity means that day after day we wrestle with whom we really love and whom we love most” (Shinabarger, 2014). Whom and what we love most will gain priority in our everyday decision and choices. This is why understanding what love is to us individually is so important. It allows us not only to identify what and whom we love, but to understand why we make the decisions we do and live the lives we live. To make better choices, we need to change the way we love from loving me to loving others. For a deeper love to drive our choices, we must engage with our struggle with our selfishness because our selfishness is our greatest battle in life. We cannot truly love others until we overcome our selfish desires. This requires making ourselves vulnerable with others, opening up broadly to reveal our true selves, knowing that it can be painful but doing so with the knowledge that the pain is better than the alternative. My friend, Richard, said it best when he said, “Love does exist. We need love to grow. It can be rewarding and it can be painful; but we need to it exist.”
Food for thought and discussion questions:
- What does your money and time say about what and who you love?
- How have your experiences shaped who and what you love?
- How do your decisions in everyday life reflect whom and what you love?
- Prioritize your loves… Rank them from greatest to least and no love can have the same ranking. What do these rankings say about how you feel about love?
From as far back as I can remember, God has given me three talents that I just cannot seem to avoid – the ability to relate to others, help people through hard times, and the ability to write and write well.
I have always been a writer. I can vividly remember being in the 2nd grade and during my free time writing a story called The Magic Pumpkin – a story about a little boy who carves a pumpkin for Halloween that comes to life overnight. They then go on this magical adventure through enchanted forests, running from evil villains, and finding a magical castle with rooms where the walls and ceilings close in on you. The story ends with the magic pumpkin saving the boy’s life from the enclosing room. (I was so stupid not to have published that story. What company wouldn’t buy a story that amazing for the simple fact a 2nd grader wrote it? I could be a millionaire right now. What in the world was I thinking?) Point is, I am a writer. I write everything from school reports to research proposals to poems to letters. Simply put, I love to write and I do it well.
However, God’s gift to me goes far beyond writing. He has given my the ability to be a problem solver, to relate to people, and to be the person everyone comes to for advice and wisdom. I am very in tune with people, seeing things others cannot, and relating to someone unlike anyone else can. Simply put, I am an empath who has a heart of discernment but all on a heave dose of steroids.
More than that even, I have this NEED to help people; whether it is finding food or clothes for a family in need, making someone a meal, driving someone, or letting someone scream and yell at me simply because they need to vent. I have this GREAT NEED to DO for others – to serve others, to provide for others, to meet the needs of others in any way, shape, or form that I can through my time, energy, experiences, skills, money, and resources… whatever and however I can help. Sometimes, helping people requires hundreds of dollars and several days out of town with a group of kids who just need to be shown love while other times it is a simple phone call or text just to remind someone that they are loved and thought about. Point is, I NEED to help others – it is a God given gift, and frankly, I am good at it.
My life has been challenging. God has constantly tried me putting me through trial after trial emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially, through my health – you name it, I have been tested in that area. I have great things about my life such as my children and great people and amazing experiences; but I have definitely had my share of hardships and struggles.
Recently, I decided to start reading this book called YES or NO, by Jeff Shinabarger. I have to admit I am only three chapters in, but I already can feel God changing my life through the words in this book. Nowhere in the book did it say anything about needing to start a blog, but reading it was as if this 30-ton truck slammed smack into my chest while God slapped me with reality and said, “ALLISON, WAKE UP!!! You have been wondering what to do with your life for years now and it is sitting right here in front of you. You need to start a blog – share your wisdom and experiences with others. Use your ability to write and research and relate to others in a way that will allow you to change lives and encourage others. I have given you the talents of writing and relating to people and although you are using them, you are not using them in a combined effort for My purpose! You want to make a change in the world – this is the first step in how you are going to do that!” It was literally one of those “oh my gosh, DUH! You’ve been so stupid for so long” kind of moments.
Do I think this is my only calling in life? No. Do I think this is going to be the way I make an income and provide for my family? Probably not. Nonetheless, do I feel like this is what God is calling me to do now? YES, 100%! Therefore, it is time I take a leap of faith. Put me skills and talents to use for God’s purpose and plan; to become a decision maker that steps up to the plate and starts doing what I am meant to do and being who I am meant to be. I do not know God’s ultimate plan for this, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is part of it!
I know great things will come of this. What those things are, I do not yet know. However, great things WILL happen? Will you be a part of it?