Love is… what?
From movies to music to everyday conversation, we sure do use this word a lot. “I love me some pickle juice!” … “I love this movie!” …. “Baby, I love you!” The word doesn’t actually convey explicit depth, does it? It’s why we gals love to ask, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how MUCH do you love me?”
The big question is whether two people share the same definition. Most definitions make for catchy song lyrics or quotable movie lines, but don’t reflect the meaning God gives to the word. One definition that definitely isn’t true: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
If we don’t correctly define love, how will we know if we are in love? How will we know when others are giving us a shallow imitation? How will we be able to establish healthy boundaries?
Too often, “I love you” is said by one person to manipulate others into meeting their needs. “If you love me, you’ll … (x, y, z).”
In a 1959 television interview, Ayn Rand, the author of the widely circulated novel, Atlas Shrugged, shared the basic tenets of a new philosophy she labeled “objectivism.” Rand put forth that our morality must be based entirely on reason and logic, not “faith or whim.”
Man’s highest moral purpose, she asserted, is his own selfish happiness. That it’s not our individual responsibility to care about or “love” anyone we don’t deem “worthy.” Hold up. Is that how God tells us to love?
She added, “Man is entitled to his own happiness and he must achieve it himself, but he cannot demand that others give up their lives to make him happy. Nor should he wish to sacrifice himself for the happiness of others. If a man wants love, he should correct his weaknesses and flaws and he may deserve it, but he cannot expect the unearned. Neither in love or money.”
Rand’s world sounds selfish and exhausting. A world that lacks love and grace and mercy does feel like that. Perhaps Rand believed this because she felt that no one offered these kindnesses to her.
Sharing God’s Love
God would say to Rand, “True love is about sacrifice. Like the way I loved you on the cross.”
And that to love selflessly is to reach the highest level of humanity. Because when we love like that, we are being most like God.
The Bible tells us that love is patient and kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. That is our guide for how to really love others.
That’s a tall order, right? But with His help, they can become easier to do consistently. And as we repeat these actions on a daily basis, they become habits, which is a good thing!
This week, note when you use the words, “I love you.” Do your actions and your words match what God says love is?
Catch up: The introductory post to this series.