I Want to Know What Love Is…
In 1984, the group Foreigner released the song, “I Want to Know What Love Is”. It went to #1 worldwide. It is still the song the band is best known for, and it still receives a lot of airplay, over 30 years after its release. I believe that’s because people have always struggled with understanding what love is, and what it isn’t.
The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but in...love...show yourself an example of those who believe [in Jesus].” (I Timothy 4:12). Let me rephrase that - show people how Christ-followers love. And to carry it a bit further, love people the same way that Jesus loved people.
“Love” is probably the most misused word in the English language. We say…
I love Jesus.
I love my dog.
I love hot dogs.
I love my wife.
I love to hike.
I love bacon.
I love to watch The Bachelor. (FYI, I don’t.)
We are obviously confused.
Take a moment to answer these questions: (No, really. Stop right now and answer these questions…)
How would I define “love”?
What does it look like to love another person?
How am I doing at being an example of love?
Here are some thoughts that might help…
Love is less a feeling, and more a doing. Your feelings shouldn’t be the control center of your life. That’s the job of your will, that part of you that makes choices. Your will processes your thinking and your feeling, and then makes a choice about what to do. You don’t love people because you feel like it. You love people because you choose to do so. You don’t have to feel anything at all to love another person. In fact, you don’t even have to know them. It’s a choice that you make. (By the way, the feelings almost always follow the choice. Make the choice to love a person, and you’ll begin to feel good about it afterwards!)
Look at the way Jesus loved us. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked His Father, “If there is any other way to do this (crucifixion, taking on the sin of the entire world), then let this cup pass from Me.” He wasn’t “feelin’” it. He was not excited about the next several hours. But He made the choice to go forward with the ordeal, so that we could be saved. That’s what love is.
Question: Who do I need to choose to love today?
Love is others-centered, not me-centered. Years ago, Josh McDowell wrote a book called Givers, Takers, and Other Kinds of Lovers. He explained that there are people who view love selfishly. For them, it’s about what I can get from the other person. It’s conditional love. “I’ll love you as long as I’m getting what I want from you.” That’s me-centered love, which is an oxymoron because true love is not about me - it’s about you. Real love is putting the needs of others before your own needs. It’s sacrificing your wants, your convenience, your time, your life for the sake of others. It’s not especially romantic. It’s not always fun. It’s moving yourself to the back of the line for the sake of another person. Paul wrote, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves…” (Philippians 2:3) That’s what love is.
Question: Am I more others-centered, or more me-centered?
Love won’t let go. Perhaps the reason that so many of us struggle with letting ourselves be fully known is that we fear that, if you know the truth about me, you will not love me. Because of that fear, I hide behind a mask and keep my stuff buried deep inside where you can’t see it. Maybe you’ve been burned by that. Maybe you allowed yourself to be honest with another person, and they betrayed your honesty by leaving.
I want you to know - that’s not love. True love won’t let go. No matter what you’ve done, what you do, how badly you’ve behaved, whatever mistakes you’ve made. True love doesn’t say, “I’ll love you if…” True love says, “I love you. Period.” It’s love with no strings attached. Again, Jesus is the model for this kind of love. Paul writes that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. That’s how we should love others. That’s what love is.
Question: Does my love for others have strings attached?
“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always ‘me first,’ doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end.” (I Corinthians 13:3-7)