Yesterday, I asked God this question. I was reading 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 and saw how God values love above all else – more than faith, spiritual gifts, giving to the poor, sacrifice, etc. But those verses don’t define what love is. Even verses 4-7 only describe characteristics of love, not what love really is at its core. So I prayed and asked God to reveal to me what love is. Through the circumstances of the day yesterday (which I could write a small book about), God revealed to me maybe the most important lesson I’ll ever learn – because it’s what is most important to God.
If you ask 1,000 people what love is, you’ll get 500+ answers. You’ll hear things like, “I just feel it”, “I just knew”, “I don’t know – there are no words to describe it”. Many never truly understand what love is. I don’t think I did until yesterday…
What is Love?
|Love||Not Love – Self Centered|
|Getting into the mind of the person to fully understand what they need||A general feeling within ourselves about someone. Thinking in our own minds about what someone else needs.|
|Genuine empathy (envisioning ourselves being in their situation) to try to fully understand what someone is going through||Using our own minds to try to understand what someone is going through (unless we’ve actually gone through it ourselves & therefore already fully understand what they’re feeling)|
|Taking action to give them what they need||Not taking action to meet their needs (either because we didn’t understand from their perspective what those needs were for the reasons above, or we failed to be empathetic enough to develop the compassion to act)|
2 Great Commandments:
- “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul and strength” – The most important way we can showing our love for God is to be like Jesus Christ and follow his commandments (Joshua 22:5). To be like Jesus and obey Him means thinking “what would Jesus do”. What would Jesus be thinking in a situation like this? It’s loving what God loves and hating what God hates (Psalm 97:10) because we (strive to) have the mind of Christ. Using our own sinful minds to figure out how to love God or show love for God is futile – we will fail because we’re doing it apart from Him.
- “Love your neighbor (which is everyone according to the story of the Good Samaritan) as yourself” – “Love your neighbor” is nebulous, general and undefined. “As yourself” is the key – it gives the context and definition of what it means to “love” someone else. We “love” ourselves (whether we really like ourselves is another story) because we are always “in” our own minds and empathize with ourselves – we have no choice! And we take action to give ourselves what we need. So “love your neighbor as yourself” is seeking to put ourselves in someone else’s place to understand what they’re experiencing and thinking (just like we do with ourselves every moment of every day, by necessity). To use the same example of the Good Samaritan, he showed love to his neighbor by empathizing with the beaten man and taking action.