What is True Love?

From the Principals' Desk, published in the Lion's Roar on October 22, 2014


What is love?  It’s certainly not something we can easily define—at least not in the way God defines it.  If love were a feeling, it would not make sense for Him to command us to love Him with our whole heart, mind, and soul (Deut.6:5; Matt. 22:37); how can you command a feeling?  It also wouldn't make sense that He would tell us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44); our emotions would prohibit us from being able to fulfill this commandment.  We can’t just decide to have certain emotions, but we apparently CAN decide to love


Love is something much greater than an emotion.  True love begins with God, because He Himself is love.  1 John 4:10 says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  True love is a decision to put another’s needs above our own.  That’s exactly what God did for us when He sent His Son Jesus.  True love is a demonstration of sacrifice for another’s greater good.  


It’s so easy to confuse the world’s definition of love with God’s definition.  The world emphasizes feelings, but God emphasizes self-sacrifice.  No wonder we and our children so easily slip into adopting the “feeling” version of love!  It’s not easy to love as God commands.


How can we tell if we’re truly loving as God designed us to love, or if we’re loving as the world loves?  It intrigues me that God held Eli the priest accountable for loving or honoring his sons more than he loved the Lord (1 Sam. 2:27-36).  It’s unlikely that Eli made a conscious decision to love his sons above God, but he did just that when He failed to correct his sons’ wrong behaviors against God.  We must realize that it’s possible to “love” others (as the world loves) more than we love God.  Beware, this ultimately brings harm, not good. 


It’s not that God decides to punish us when we love others and things more than we love Him.  Instead, because God is love, He also knows how true love works.  He knows that emotional love is far too self-centered and cannot bless us or others the way we each crave to be blessed.  He knows that we can only experience true love when we love the One who is love more than we love anyone or anything else. 


What do I think most about?  That’s what I love most...that’s what I worship.  God designed us with the ability to choose what we will worship, honor, and love.  He tells us to love Him above all else because He knows that no one and nothing else in all the world compares to Him!  If we desire to experience the greatest love of all, we must focus on loving God far above everything else. 


When we step out in faith and trust the God whom we love, remembering that He first loved us, we can do the impossible —we can love our enemies and love sacrificially.