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Love Is . . . Not What You Think

Here’s a doozy of a question for you: When did you first learn about love? I mean, not romantic or sexual love, love we read or sing about, love that makes us a little crazy in the head or makes the world go ʼround. I mean the love Jesus commanded in John 15:12–13; a love that calls us to lay down our lives, let go of all earthly goods, embrace the crosses that come our way through life, and love from one’s soul (Mark 8:35–36).

Maybe the real question is, How do you define love? Have you ever considered that the many ways we define love may not be God’s meaning of love?

And really, unless our fundamental understanding of love is aligned with God’s definition of love, we will forever be restless and unsatisfied.

The Basics from the Bathroom Floor

About 12 years ago, I was restless and unsatisfied as I sat on the floor outside my son’s bathroom. He needed help cleaning up after using the restroom; and motherhood has a way of electing us to all kinds of unexpected responsibilities. At that time, due to my son’s needs, I had stepped down from teaching Bible studies, speaking at conferences, attending Dallas Theological Seminary, and doing all the “spiritual” things I thought God must need me to do. But the Holy Spirit brought one phrase to mind from Colossians 3:23, as only He could because my heart was certainly not feeling kindly: “as unto the Lord and not unto man.” I think I asked for this to be repeated several times: as unto the Lord and not unto man . . . as unto the Lord and not unto man.

Sometimes God brings things to mind in beautiful ways; this was more like being pierced in my heart. My heart was set on my plans, my loves, my dreams. I began to weep. God had entrusted me with His loved and treasured children, especially one that needed a bit more support than most—but I resented that? I was so far from understanding God’s love . . . and I’m still learning to this day.

From Past to Present

Twelve years later, on the bathroom floor again, I was helping another family member recover from a massively painful surgery, rendering her hygienically-challenged for a while. This time, it wasn’t a resented duty, it was a respected honor. To care for others unable to care for themselves, isn’t that what God did and does for us every moment of our lives? It’s nothing short of a sacred honor; it’s God’s love in action.

Regarding Ephesians 6:7, “With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men,” one commentator writes: “That is, he should regard his lot in life as having been ordered by Divine Providence for some wise and good purpose; and until he may be permitted to enjoy his liberty in a quiet and peaceable manner, he should perform his duties with fidelity, and feel that he was rendering acceptable service to God. This would reconcile him to much of the hardships of his lot. The feeling that ‘God’ has ordered the circumstances of our lives, and that he has some wise and good ends to answer by it, makes us contented there.”1“Barnes’ Notes on the Bible,” Bible Hub, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/ephesians/6-7.htm, accessed January 5, 2016.

Cross
(Photo Courtesy of Stocksnap.com)

Sandwiched between Paul’s words on all things public in the Christian body for worship, service, teaching, and gifts (1 Corinthians 12 and 14) is the paramount passage on love . . . the foundation of a Christian’s love (1 Corinthians 13). One may have oratory elegance, awe-inspiring gifts, faith that quakes the earth and seas; but without a soul founded on and filled with love, all other abilities and actions are meaningless. Sadly, humankind looks on the outward things, as I once did—what we “do” for God—as if we are really that essential. But God’s love must fill our soul while attending to another’s soul . . . not their actions, choices, behaviors, abilities, knowledge, or accomplishments. None of that is eternal. God’s love, then, is a verb; an act of our will to care for all others without conditions. First Corinthians 13 describes love’s attributes, including patience, humility, unselfishness, endurance, and peace, but at the core, love is an action of a heart surrendered to God’s will, filled with His ways.

This is an eternal work, because we are so filled with ourselves . . . our opinions and judgments, our wants and wishes, our dreams and desires. We classify who is lovely and who isn’t. So many earthly opinions or spiritually related activities are often more about trying to fill the restless, unsatisfied parts of our lives than fulfilling God’s call to love others as He loves us. Thankfully, the Lord entrusted me with family who have revealed what love means. Love is a verb. Remember that God so loved the world, He sent His one and only son . . . John 3:16. He “sent” . . . an action that conveys love is a verb, a choice put into action for the betterment of another.

Let Me Hear from You

So now, the hard questions: How do you define love? How do you want to be loved? Is your love offered without judgment, or do others have to measure up to some human standard? Maybe sitting on the bathroom floor and having a talk with God isn’t a bad idea. Why don’t you find a spot where you can sit a while and ask the Lord what love is all about? Then let’s talk about how love can be a verb in your life.

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Notes:   [ + ]

1. “Barnes’ Notes on the Bible,” Bible Hub, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/ephesians/6-7.htm, accessed January 5, 2016.