I find it fascinating that love is the first Fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. It’s as if love is the most important fruit, and, realistically, all the other fruits just describe love in action. 1 Corinthians 13, the “Love Chapter”, supports my theory – “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (v.13)
Our society is obsessed with love, or rather, with what it thinks love is. We debate about who should be allowed to “love” each other. We celebrate romance on Valentine’s Day; we glorify touchy-feely opinions that aren’t grounded in a biblical definition of love. And we watch marriages fall apart in startling numbers because people don’t understand what true love means.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a post the day before Valentine’s Day, laying out my determination not to let my lack of a “significant other” stop me from being happy. This year, God’s been teaching me that I can’t let it stop me from loving others, either. Just because I don’t have a boyfriend doesn’t mean that I’m not surrounded by people who need to be loved. I find it so easy to get wrapped up in myself and my life when what I really should be doing is opening myself to others. Love isn’t selfish, which is why we find it so difficult to truly love. It’s opposite our sin nature. It also takes a great deal of work.
- Letting go of yourself – I’m not saying become a doormat, but, ultimately, love is looking at someone else and saying, “Their well-being is more important than my wishes in the moment.” My favorite description of love is this: Love is sacrifice. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” – 1 John 3:16. The theme of sacrificial love underlies some of the most painful stories I’ve ever read; the story of Jesus’ death is a very sad story. But those are some of the greatest stories ever told, too.
- Giving of yourself – “Love is patient, love is kind.” (1 Cor. 13:4); “But the fruit of the Spirit is…forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness…” (Gal. 5:22-23). Love requires not only letting go of yourself but also putting effort into the lives of others. It takes work to be patient – trust me, that’s been a life-long battle for me. Some people are exceptionally difficult to be kind and gentle with. Faithfulness means you have to move beyond your own selfish whims.Love is hard. And to truly love, you must share yourself with others. “You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.” - Jazlyn Roehl
- Doing something – It’s easy to speak platitudes about love. But the real test of that love comes when you’re faced with the need for action. “Works, not words, are the proof of love.” – Unknown Author. Are you willing to put some work into this person you love? Or is your “love” just sweet things whispered in the heat of emotion? Love is a choice: choosing every day to turn your words into actions, to give up your personal time for someone else, to listen to them without judging, to do their chores for them, to invest in their passions. Love is so much more than words.
- Understanding people – While Disney has taught us that “love at first sight” is the height of romance, true love requires knowing people beyond your first impressions. It’s easy to like people when you first meet them. I’ve met plenty of guys whom I thought would be fun to date. But as you get to know someone, your perception changes. Only when you understand who a person is can you love them through their faults. “Love at first sight usually ends with divorce at first slight.” – R. Prewitt. Love is so much more than attraction, though it can start with that. But true love understands the best and worst in people (thought not always specifics) and loves them through it. “Nothing beats love at first sight except love with insight.” – Unknown Author
What’s your understanding of love? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts!