A week after Fifty Shades Of Grey
(one of the highest opening weekend box-office earners) came out, it might be a good idea for us to investigate what real love is. I wonder if the people who flocked to that movie or read the book were left with the feeling that the characters were deeply satisfied by their sexual interactions, or do we accept the notion that love is just a series of momentary bursts of excitement or gratification? Even pop culture aficionados would probably admit that the portrayal of real love in our western world is misinformed at best, and destructive at its worst.
It isn’t only the romantic side of love that we are so confused about, it is the relational side of love as well. Some of the most watched movies and television shows paint a picture of relationships that isn’t helping our understanding of real love.
A few weeks ago we began a series called Love Bites at Central (you can watch the full experiences here) that aims to point us back in the right direction when it comes to our most valued relationships.
The good news is that there is a definition of love that will help to provide us with a solid foundation for our relationships. It is probably the most famous description of what love is, and it is found in the Bible.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1Corinthians 14:4-7
Love isn’t an emotion, and it isn’t sex. It isn’t even some evolutionary mechanism used for procreation.
In the original language there is no punctuation, it is simply “love is” then a whole series of descriptions in a run-on sentence. So, lets unpack the bookends of this famous description of love.
3 Things You Need To Know About Love
1. Love Is Patient (Love Takes Time To Grow)
To better understand what the writer of these verses meant by “love is patient” it is helpful to understand what the word “patient” actually means. Patient is a compound word in the greek and comes from two words; “macro, which means long” and “wrath, or rage” and is best translated “to have a long fuse” Another way to think patience in this context is to look at love as something that takes a long time to mature, something that isn’t easily angered or annoyed. Something that is steady and even keeled.
Another word that can be used here is commitment. Since love is patient we can create a sense of security for those around us by reinforcing our values of commitment in relationships. How much time are you giving love to grow? Are you committed for the long-haul or are you uprooting your relationships before love ever has a real chance to grow. We live in a culture that has accepted the idea that if something isn’t working within the first 90 days we can send it back and move on. We treat love like an infomercial product with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and like those $19.99 products we expect to be able to be release from our purchase commitment if we’re not happy with the product.
If we want the best out of love
we have to give it time and make a commitment.
2. Love Is Kind (Love Needs To Be Nurtured)
The word “kind” in the original greek is interesting. It actually means to be useful or helpful or of assistance, and is used in the context of a servant who is useful to his master. Real love is not based on what we receive out of relationships but rather how well we serve others. Often times we are focused on what we will get out of relationships instead of how relationships can make us better.
A great analogy for this is pruning. In order for a tree to grow strong and healthy it needs to be carefully pruned, and that is the same with our relationships. Here’s the kicker though. Pruning needs to take place, but it is us who needs to be willing to be pruned. Often times we find it easy to identify the areas that need to be pruned in others, but real love means that we are willing to allow ourselves to be pruned by others. We need to be ok with correction, and need to be ok with being pruned.
One of the best mechanisms for this to take place is through serving. When we change our focus to serve others because we love them and not expect to be served ourselves we experience the pruning of real love.
3. Love Never Fails
This is probably one of the most misunderstood descriptions of love found in these verses. Everyone can point to an experience in their life when they would say that they experienced the failure of love first hand. For a lot of us, we can even picture the time and place where we felt let down and betrayed by love. We all have those stories, but what if it isn’t love that is failing us, rather people that are failing to love? Maybe our experiences with love are less about love falling short and more about us failing to love properly.
Until we are willing to be patient with love and be pruned by love we will continue to experience relational breakdown and even failure.
The Bible says “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” (1John 4:16) The important phrase here is “God is love”. Love is not an attribute of God, or part of His character profile, it is who He is.
If we want to gain a better understanding of what real love looks like, we need to understand the character and nature of God and the truth of how He sees us. When we grasp the the grace God gives us, when we understand the patience He has for us, when we realize that even Jesus came to serve those around Him, it provides us the best example of what real love looks like and how we are to love those around us.
None of us are perfect, but in order to have healthy relationships we need to apply these three principles to our own life. To watch the full teaching or other weeks in this series, click here.