By Angeline Williams
Love is the most powerful thing in the world with enormous potential to give life. For all the power love holds, we still live in a world that is hungry for love. Everyone is looking for love. We look for love, think we have found it, and then find ourselves disillusioned when the feelings go away. Well what does real love look like anyway? What is the love we all need and want? How will we know when we’ve found it?
Depending on who’s doing the talking and what is being expressed, love means different things to different people. Two people might commit themselves to love each other but have different ideas of what it really means. Some think of being in love as an unexplainable feeling that we fall in and out of, especially in today’s society. Love can also mean a self-sacrificing action on behalf of others. Some use the word love to refer to a desire for a sexual relationship. Even in everyday conversation we use the word love to refer to a variety of things. For instance, I love music or I love my computer or I really love your hair like that.
Love can be a dangerous word because it can mean so many different things to different people it can end up meaning nothing at all. Love makes us vulnerable to being hurt, misunderstood, embarrassed, or taken advantage of. Some have been so hurt by elusiveness of love that they’ve given up on it, totally washed their hands of it.
I hope after reading this article and studying the scriptures for yourself that you will find love isn’t so elusive after all. It might help us though to make a distinction between the different kinds of love before we proceed any further, then focus on the kind of Christian love the Holy Spirit produces or God’s kind of love.
In the Greek language there are four words that describe this act of loving. I don’t particularly care for Greek words because I don’t speak Greek, but in this case it helps us to understand Christian love better.
The first is the Eros. It is from this word Eros that we get the word erotic and romantic. What it is basically is the chemical reaction between a male and a female. During the New Testament times this word Eros was associated with lust. Love on this level is usually self-centered.
The second word is Philia. Philia is the kind of human love that comes out because we appreciate the goodness of others. Sometimes we say I love him or her for what they did in my time of need, or for a community or country. It is not romantic. It is more gratitude, admiration and respect.
The third word for love is Storge. This is the love that is shared between family members, most of the time that is. Between spouses, brothers and sisters, parents and children. This love is often conditional on some kind of relationship.
And then there is Agape, the word the Bible uses and the word we are concerned about here. It is not the I love because I am loved love. Neither is it the I love you because I need you love. Agape is the kind of love Jesus showed on the cross. Forgiving those who were persecuting Him. This love is sacrificial, self-giving, and unmerited by the recipient.
It loves those who are hard to love. Agape is the hardest kind of love because it is loving those that we might feel don’t deserve it, loving even when we know we won’t get it in return. Its the kind of love that the Holy Spirit produces within us and allows us to do things that we cannot do by ourselves. No wonder Paul puts it at the beginning of the list of the Fruit of the Spirit.
One of the first steps in receiving and releasing God’s kind of love is to recognize the difference between human love and a true God-kind of love. Man’s corrupt nature doesn’t have access to God’s love. God is love and any man or woman who does not have God is separated from true love. Human love and God’s love are not even in the same class. Basically, human love is selfish and God’s love is totally unselfish. Human love says, I’ll love you as long as you do what I want you to. God’s love is unconditional.
First Corinthians 13:4-8 lists the characteristics of God’s love. Few understand and appreciate how unique God’s love really is. We relate God’s love similarly to the way we’ve been loved. Our bad experiences prevent us from accepting God’s love bringing Him down to our level thinking His love is conditional or proportional to our performance. That’s how everyone else loves us, but God’s love is different. Its like no other love you’ve ever experienced.
God’s love never fails, even when we do. God’s love is unconditional. We didn’t do anything to deserve it and therefore, God doesn’t withdraw His love when we don’t deserve it. God loves us because He is love, not because we are lovable.
As we explore the characteristics of real love get ready for a revelation that will change your life. Then make a decision to renew your mind in the area of God’s love. Ask the Lord to teach you anew what His love is all about.
Real love is longsuffering and kind. Charity suffers long, and is kind. The first characteristic of God s love recorded in 1 Corinthians 13 is long-suffering and kind. There are two ways to apply these truths. As Christians, we are to be long-suffering and kind to others, but this also describes the way God acts toward us. God is love (1 John 4:8), and the reason we can act in love toward others, is because He first acted in love toward us (1 John 4:19).
If you think God holds a grudge with you every time you do something wrong you will hold a grudge with others who do wrong to you. We give out of what we receive. If we can’t receive love we can’t give it. God doesn’t ask more of us than what He is willing to give. He wouldn’t tell us to be long-suffering and kind to others and then be short tempered with us. No! The Lord is very long-suffering and kind in His dealings with us. Kindness and long-suffering are distinguishing characteristics of God’s kind of love for us.
Real love does not envy. The dictionary defines envy as discontented desire or resentment aroused by another’s possessions, achievements, or advantages. A person who is discontent or resents others who have more things, more talent or a better job, is a person who does not appreciate God’s love for him. When we receive God’s love for us, a supernatural contentment settles into our lives that cannot be affected by the desire for things. Discontentment is envy and is at the root of all temptation.
Take Adam and Eve as an example. Before the devil could get them to sin, he had to make them discontent. That was not easy to do. They had no needs. They had never been hurt or abused. However he made them believe they were missing out on something. He made two people, living in paradise dissatisfied with perfection. That’s amazing!
This shows that contentment isn’t a state of being, but a state of mind. If perfect people living in a perfect world could become discontented, then certainly imperfect people living in an imperfect world can be discontented regardless of how things are going. We have to learn to be content in all states (Philippines. 4:11). God’s love will give us the contentment we desire.
Real love is not boastful or proud. In other words, those who are full of real love don’t think they are better than others. This characteristic of real love is the flip side of a love that is not envious or jealous. Jealousy wants what someone else has, but bragging tries to make others jealous of what we have. Jealousy puts others down, bragging builds ourselves up. Real love does not brag about its accomplishments. It is not given to self-display, not even to carefully worded statements of subtle self-promotion. King Solomon said it well when he wrote; Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth (Proverbs 27:2).
Real love knows how to behave. One of the biggest lies the devil ever sold us is that love is an over powering feeling that cannot be controlled. However God’s kind of love never acts in an inappropriate way. To behave unseemly means to behave indecently or in a shameful manner. The Greek word that is translated unseemly literally means an indecency. In other words, God’s kind of love never bares itself in an indecent manner.
How does behaving improperly relate to the principle of real love referred to in First Corinthians 13? It reminds us that the nature of real love will never make inappropriate demands of others. Real love will never prompt an unmarried person to say, if you love me, you’ll prove it by giving yourself to me. Real love according to Paul, never pressures another to do something wrong to prove their loyalty. It seeks the best for the one loved not the personal gain, pleasure, or control that manipulation is often designed to achieve.
Real love is not selfish. The most distinguishing characteristic of the true God kind of love is that it is not selfish or self-serving. It describes a heart that is not so consumed with its own interests that it cannot show concern for the needs and interests of others.
Jesus is the best example of real love. He showed the kind of real love that is able to look beyond its own interests and embrace the concerns of others. Jesus didn’t come to this earth to satisfy Himself. Ultimately, He did receive great satisfaction by redeeming mankind back to Himself. But the act of Jesus becoming flesh was for us, not for Him. He left all the splendor of glory and adoration and came to dwell for 30 years in the most humble surroundings, endured the scorn and ridicule of the religious establishment. Then suffered the ultimate rejection of crucifixion and took all the shame that went with being a condemned criminal. Yet He did all of this because God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son. (John 3:16)
Real love doesn’t have a short fuse. It is not easily provoked. The next characteristic of real love describes a love that is not touchy or irritable. Oftentimes this important quality of love goes out with the wash. After years of shared displeasure, husbands and wives can become easily aggravated with each other. Parents shout at their children in frustration. Why do we get provoked? Sometimes we fester inside because we want what we want, when we want it and we wont take later for an answer. These temper tantrums provide evidence of our own selfishness.
There is, however, a time when it is proper to be emotionally upset and agitated. For example the attitude of Paul in Acts 17:16. The scripture says while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols.
Paul’s provocation was both called for and loving. The more he saw and thought about the idolatry of the city, the more concerned and upset he became in behalf of those who were being hurt and misled by such false religion.
Jesus also was deeply provoked when He turned over the tables of the temple moneychangers. He was loving enough to be angered by the commercialism that was disrupting the Court of the Gentiles in His Fathers House of Prayer. He cared for those who had lost a quiet place to pray (Mt. 21:12-13). Jesus was not expressing the kind of touchiness and irritability that signals a lack of love. When He was provoked, it was only because He was thoughtfully and lovingly aroused to take action against practices that were hurting the people He loved.
Paul’s and Jesus’ actions remind us that there is a time to be angry. This anger, however, needs to be expressed in love, and without sin (Eph. 4:26).
Real love doesn’t keep score and thinks no evil. The Greek word translated thinks no evil is an accounting term that means to count up, to take account of as in a ledger or notebook. The evils referred to are the wrongs or hurts received at the hand of others. The love that thinks no evil is a love that wont keep records of unkindness, hold bitter grudges or allow longstanding resentments against others with the intent of someday getting even, even when the wrongs done against us are real. When we keep track of wrongs with the intent of making others pay, we ourselves pay more than we can afford.
Real love does not keep a record of wrongs. Thinking on the wrongs we suffer from others magnifies the offense until it becomes bigger than it actually is. We don’t need to keep a record of wrongs to protect ourselves when we know that God is in control of the outcome and looking after our needs.
Real love doesn’t rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. The word rejoices means to experience joy or pleasure. Real love does not find delight in anything God says is wrong. Neither does love take secret satisfaction in the moral failures of others. Real love does not hide evil by keeping secrets that need to be exposed. Real love does not pass along a juicy morsel of someone else’s failure just because it tastes good to do so. Real love does not gossip to break the monotony, or to appear knowledgeable, or to feel better about itself by publishing the news of someone else’s shame. Breaking the news of sin must be for the good of others rather than to promote a feeding frenzy around someone else’s embarrassment and pain.
Real love can bear anything. The word bears comes from a Greek word that means roof. This is an awesome revelation. Real love covers and protects like a roof covers a house and protects it from storms. Real love bears the storms of disappointment, the rains of failure, and the winds of time and circumstance. It provides a covering that shields from the extremes of cold winters and hot summer sun. It provides a place of shelter that can withstand the worst circumstances imaginable.
Real love believes all things. One of the great indicators of whether or not we are walking in God’s love is the level of faith we exhibit. Love begets faith. As this verse says, Love believes all things. Faith worketh by love. (Galatians. 5:6) When we experience the love God has for us, faith will come as a natural by-product of His love.
A young child in his father’s arms trusts his father completely and doesn’t have a care in the world. He doesn’t struggle to believe for his meals, clothes or needs. His loving father will take care of it all. That’s the similarity Jesus made to encourage us to trust God for our needs (Luke 11:11-13). A loving relationship with our Heavenly Father is the key to a life of faith.
If you have a problem trusting God in any area of your life that is an indicator that something is wrong. Like the warning light on the dash of your car. You don’t try and disconnect the warning light you fix the problem that caused the light to come on, and then the light will automatically turn off. Likewise, a lack of faith is a warning light that indicates you aren’t properly focused on the love of God. Once you return to the place of intimacy with the Lord, where you are fully aware of His great love for you, then faith will be so abundant that you can believe all things.
Real love never quits hoping. Hopelessness is a terrible thing. God’s Word says, where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18). Lack of hope is behind most, if not all of the self-destruction we see in the lives of people today. They don’t believe they have a future so they throw away today never thinking of the consequences while all the while they are headed for disaster.
Luck and fate does not generate hope. It’s only in knowing that a personal, loving God is working all things for our good (Romans 8:28), that we can truly find hope. God has a perfect plan for your life. Regardless of where you are now, no matter how far off the track you may have strayed, God has a perfect course plotted for you from where you are now, to where you are supposed to be (Jeremiah 29:11). Believe that God loves you in spite of what you have, or have not done; and then hope will spring up in your heart.
Real love endures everything. Life is full of pressures that repeatedly drive us to and beyond our limits to cope. We’ve all at one time or another have gone off the deep end so to say in response to pressure. We excuse it way and justify actions because of our prideful nature. The truth is where our limit ends God’s power begins. There is no need for us to feel we must totally rely on our own resources. God lives in every true believer and has placed His supernatural love in us so that we can endure all things.
Real love never fails. I Corinthians 13:8 God is love (l John 4:8) and God never fails. Individuals may fail to respond to His love and therefore bear the consequences, but love never fails. Love always prevails in the end we just need to give it time. The Lord doesn’t force everyone and everything into obedience. The Lord is long-suffering and gives everyone an opportunity to repent (2 Peter 3:9-10).
There is another element to love we cannot forget about and that is forgiveness. Part of loving someone as Jesus loves is forgiving those who have wronged us or who have wronged Jesus with their sin. God has not set up His children as judges of the sins of others, for any one of us could fall at any time. It is only by the grace of God that we are where we are. Jesus gives an example of this in John 21, when he reinstates Peter after his denial. Jesus asked Peter do you love me more than these disciples? Peter answered that he did indeed love Jesus and our Lord said, then love, lead, and take care of my sheep. Jesus wants us to love Him and love and care for each other. His final words to Peter were follow me!! And that is His word to us today. Follow Him, obey His commands and care for each other.
Have you experienced real find love? Do you know where can to find real love? Let me share with you some good news you are already loved. I am sure you’ve heard this before, but I’ll say again anyway. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. That’s John 3:16.
Jesus said, “Do not worry, saying, what shall we eat? Or what shall we drink? Or what shall we wear? For all these things the Gentiles seek. Your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:31-33). We will never be able to really love others until we believe we are loved in this way.
Have you taken that first step of finding love in Christ? Have you entrusted yourself to Him? Have you believed the Bible when it says Christ died for your sins?
The starting point is to acknowledge your sin and your need of Christ, who came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). It is in Christ that we find the love of God, and it is in Him that we see what it means to live in the kind of love Paul described. He is the One who calls us not merely to a higher standard but to let Him live His life through us.