“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” – 1 John 4:10
I love my children. I love my wife. But then again, I also love a good hamburger and a cold Pepsi. I love listening to music and sitting on the porch watching and listening to the rain. It wouldn’t take me or you very long to compile a pretty long list of the contexts and times we use the word “love.”
Is it possible that we might be mistaking some things for love that actually aren’t love? For example, we love to be entertained; things that make us laugh, make us cry, or just capture our attention for a little while. But at best it is temporary. We love people who serve or meet some need in us. But in the end, it is more about ourselves than the other person. We love affirmation. We love the people who always affirm all our life choices, and we put ourselves in the kind of relationships where we never confront or disagree with someone else. But love is not the same thing as affirmation. We need people who can say the difficult words when they need to be said. This is what God does for us – He tells us the truth about ourselves even when we are unwilling or unable to see that truth on our own.
Love – or at least the word – is all around us. But in many cases, it can be something masquerading as true love. So, what is love? What does it do? Why does it matter?
1 John 4:8 says, “But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” God doesn’t just show us love. God is love. Without Him, there is no love. With Him, it is impossible not to love. Our goal is to love like Jesus. “Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)
When we love like Jesus, we’re lifted outside ourselves. We shed self-interest — with our spouse, our kids, friends, everyone. His brand of love sees beyond the normal range of human vision — over walls of resentment and barriers of betrayal. When we love like Jesus, we rise above petty demands and a sense of entitlement. Most of all, the Jesus model of love inspires us in following the best way to live a “way of life that is best of all.” (1 Corinthians 12:31)
This love isn’t elusive. It isn’t pie-in-the-sky. It isn’t out-of-reach nor exclusive to people with seminary degrees. Jesus gives us practical steps to love in extraordinary ways. Will you and I fail in loving like Jesus? Absolutely. But when we strive to love like Jesus, we will be able to differentiate between things we love and real love.
- What is the difference between the things we love and the real love of God?