A famous philosopher once said, “What is love?…Baby, don’t hurt me….don’t hurt me. No more.”
I think he was asking one of the greatest questions that is on our hearts.
We want to love and we want to be loved but do we really know what that means? Can you chart that out for me or give a precise definition? Have we even thought it through?
The world has its own ideas of love and portrays them through the media. For the most part, I think we give profess that Hollywood’s display of love is not all that accurate but as I talk to more and more Christians, I am finding that their definitions of love are more in line with the movies than the Bible.
Is this a problem? Yes. Since the two greatest commandments (Love God with everything and love your neighbor as yourself; Matthew 22:36-40) are wrapped up in love, then we ought to be certain we are loving rightly.
Here are the three most common misconceptions of love among Christians and Hollywood:
1. Love is intense feelings and overwhelming emotion.
Yes, there are certain feelings that can go along with loving someone but love is so much more than emotion.
If love is all about the positive emotions we feel toward someone (whether a friend, girlfriend, or spouse) then what happens when those emotions are there no longer? Or if we are married, what happens if you begin to feel attracted to someone other than your spouse? Does that mean you have fallen out of love with your spouse?
If love is emotion, then when the emotions change (they always do), you no longer love that person. You can say you don’t agree with me, but it is fairly sound logic (I love you anyways).
Instead, the Bible says that love is a choice and love is action. At the risk of sounding excruciatingly cliche, love is a verb.
The greatest example is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son.” It does not say, for God so loved the world that he felt butterflies in His stomach, gained a skip in His step, and doodled your name in His journal. It says He gave. He acted.
True love is not stationary and passive. True love does something. If you look at Paul’s vivid explanation of love in 1 Corinthians 13, you will notice that it is all made up of verbs. If you were to look at the original Greek of the passage you would see even more clearly that these are active and continual verbs. There is a striving, a bearing under, a fighting for the one you love.
If love is all about positive emotions, we would never be able to obey the commandment to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Instead, we should choose to love and act on that love whether we feel like it or not. If we do that, the feelings will follow. But if a bad happens and those good feelings leave again, our choice to love still remains.
2. Love is about acceptance.
Yes, we accept others unconditionally and love unconditionally, but most people think of acceptance as approval. As in, if you truly loved me you would approve of and support all my choices.
They say, true love doesn’t judge. It shouldn’t confront someone or correct them. You should love them enough to stay out of their business and let them make their own decisions.
Instead, the Bible shows that true love is willing to strongly rebuke—because true love seeks the highest good. Yes, we do not dictate people’s lives but when we see someone living their life contrary to the Bible, we should love them enough to steer them the other way. We should love enough to tell them, you are heading in the wrong direction and it is going to hurt you.
Proverbs says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (27:6). The person who loves you enough to risk their happiness and awkward-free relationship with you by telling you that you are acting like an idiot, is your friend. The one who always tells you what you want to hear is who you really need to worry about.
3. Love is all about happiness.
Once again, this sees love as all about warm and fuzzy emotions. If I make them happy and they make me happy then we are doing well. Yes, along with love comes a bit of happiness but anyone who has been married for longer than the honeymoon knows that happiness is not eternal when you are with the one you love.
America sees happiness as the highest pursuit. Heck, it is in our Declaration of Independence as one of our three unalienable rights as humans. In everything we do and with everyone we love, we are seeking after happiness.
The problem is that getting married is not going to make you happy. Having friends will not make you happy. We may gain happiness for a little while or at least what we think is happiness, but we know there is something more.
The Bible shows that true love is not about happiness but holiness, and in holiness we can find our fullest of joys. True love always seeks the highest good and it does not settle for anything less. True love understands that happiness is not the highest good, but holiness.
Christians always quote Romans 8:28 as a banner verse over their lives, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for the good of those who have been called according to His purpose.” The problem is that we think we know what that good is: our happiness.
We are wrong.
Look at the next verse for what God says our highest good is: “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” That we would be like Christ. That we would be holy. In John 14, Jesus connects His love for us and our obedience to Him (9-10). This sort of holiness is so “that your joy may be full” (11). Following Christ brings true satisfaction, true abiding joy that will not fade.
Quick side note. True love cleanses, while sinful lust defiles (Ephesians 5:25-27). If you are dating someone who wants to compromise you sexually in any way, they do not love you. They want what pleasure you can give them to make themselves happy. They have no regard for the guilt and shame that they will be bringing you for a quick moment of pleasure. They are not seeking your holiness, just your body.
Praise God that He loves us enough to cleanse us when we dirty ourselves up. He loves us enough to make us holy.
So, the most loving thing I can do for my wife is not cater to every whim of hers so she would be happy with me, but to point her to Christ, the only one who can make her holy and bring her fullness of joy.