There are certain words we need to be careful about how we use them or throw them around. One word we use on a daily basis has probably become the most overworked and overused word we know today. It is a simple four-letter word. Everyone uses it. We have allowed this word to come out of our mouths repeatedly day in and day out. The word is love.
Just think about it for a moment. Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about: “I love gardening!” “I just love your shoes!” “I’d love to see that!” “I love baseball!” “I love to hunt and fish!” “I absolutely love my morning coffee!” “I really love to eat at that restaurant!” “I love you to the moon and back!” “I love spending time with my family!” “I love this great weather we’re having!” “I love the holidays!” “I love to read, play games, and watch television!” The list can go on for miles. We are like the McDonald’s catch phrase, “I’m Lovin’ It,” all over the spectrum. In most cases, we don’t even realize we are doing it.
There are volumes upon volumes of poetry and songs written with love as the theme. No matter the genre, most all songs are about love for someone, something, or a broken heart from lost love. “Can’t Buy Me Love.” “Love Me Do.” “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” And hymns too. “Faithful Love.” “Love Lifted Me.” “I Love The Lord,” just to name a few.
Love is the most misunderstood and misused word in our language. It is used so loosely it has lost its true meaning, becoming very commonplace. We need to step back and discern what love is, especially true love.
I think there is a difference between how women and men think about love in our society. I also know there are different types of love, or maybe I should say degrees of love. You do not have the same love for your spouse as you do for your children. You do not have the same degree of love for your children as you do for your friends. Each makes your heart sing the same song but with different verses or tunes. I know I do not have the same degree of love for my husband now as when we first married. Isn’t that marvelous? God made our hearts with the ability to expand as big as the universe to accommodate different and many loves.
Love is an instinct while so much of our behavior is learned. There again, we are created that way. Love can’t be explained away with a simple definition. Genuine, true love is a longing, a burning and a wanting to cling to someone. Love grows just like we do. It has a beginning, matures and grows. When I hear someone say, “We fell in love,” the very first thing that pops into my mind is, “It hurts when you fall.” I have never understood “falling” in or out of love. It’s just not that easy. Genuine, true love cannot be swept aside so easily and quickly bestowed on the next stranger who walks through the door.
God’s Word has more to say about love than we can begin to fathom. We are born to love. The Almighty designed us to be that way. Matthew 22:34-40 is a short passage of God’s Word that man has named “The Greatest Command.” It reads: “But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question to test Him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Our love for the Lord and His Word needs to be deep in our very souls with a never-ending, burning desire to be with Him. We need to have an aching, longing thirst to know more and more about him, a thirst which cannot be quenched. Love for the Almighty is not a one-time deal. It needs to be constant and ever present in our minds as well as our hearts. If we can love God this way (which we absolutely can), then we will have love for one another and love for ourselves. This love will stimulate us to do our very best. It will create in us the desire to be with fellow Christians as much as possible to share this love and share the Lord together. This love will generate our spirituality to heights we would never think possible. In turn, this love will aid in every aspect of our personal lives, our work, our friends, and especially in our families. Just imagine the domino effect that will impact everything we do!
The book of 1 John is a guide book to love. Please notice how gentle John speaks, calling Christians “beloved” and “little children,” giving us the truth but in love. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him…See what kind of love the Father has given to us; that we should be called children of God…Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him…For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another…We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death…If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth…Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God has made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us…Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother…Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments…” (1 John 2:15; 3:1-2, 11, 17-18; 4:7-12, 15-21; 5:1-3).
It all comes down to this. We need to love God in the way and manner He wants from us. After that, everything else will fall into place. God is willing to help us anyway He can. All we have to do is allow Him to do so. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37).
Lorraine worships at and is involved in the work of the Calhoun Church of Christ in Calhoun, GA. She is the author of the books Just Asking and Heaven? or Hell? A Soul’s Choice.