Everyone wants to be loved. And most people want to love others in return. But do we truly know what love is?
Today, my friend Katherine Henson is here sharing a guest post about love. Below, she so eloquently delves into the deep divide between God’s love and culture’s misshapen version of it. I’ve been married for 7.5 years, and her words were convicting to me. Katherine shares a bit of her love story, and then digs into scripture to discover how the creator of all things defines love. Believe me — this post will be healing for your heart.
Every where you turn, culture is giving you a “10 Ways to Know You’re in Love,” “The True Meaning of Love,” “Is He Really the One,” “Your Perfect Match Based on Your Zodiac Sign,” “How to Have a Love Like the Movies,” and so on. This culture has folded the corners, ironed out the wrinkles, and placed love in a tiny box with a red bow to hand out. Everyone an expert, and not single one afraid to tell you why you are not.
At some point, we all become victim to this “love-in-a-box” dilemma. We buy in, just hoping that forever is real and we won’t be alone in it.
I cannot think of a better way to depict cultural love than to look at my history of “love.” I can assure you that most of my high school and college years – okay, all of them – where a result of these ideals. There have been few who have come and stayed, let alone come and showed me I was worth a love without requirements. I jumped from relationship to relationship searching for something that might fill this every-growing void of worthlessness and need to be seen.
All I knew was that in order to receive you must give, give, give, and give. So I gave, gave, gave, and gave. Whatever they wanted. Then I waited. I am sure you can assume that the waiting was never satisfied. Not because I did not receive in return, but because what I received was not the answer or the essence of what I truly deserved and longed for.
It looked like this:
By now, she has trained herself to hold back, the good and the bad; little momentous, secretly sweet moments accompanied with forceful shadows. She knew not to disturb, after all, no one wanted to see the dirty and how dare she throw fireworks up in the air for her own good day.
At least, that is what she had come to know as truth. She had come to believe that in order for love to exist, life must fit within a perfect level of functional, folded precisely in her tiny box of a soul. Careful not to get too close to one extreme or the other, wading across the line, just hoping not to lose balance.
It took me until I was nearly twenty-three to understand that love was not about picking and choosing what to hand to someone else out of fear for what they might reject.
Now let me try God-defined love:
Love does not come from outward adornment, such as what we can give of ourselves to another. Rather, it should be that of inner-self. The mingling of a thousand heart strings with another.
God-defined love does not require one to deny reality of who they are – good or bad. There is no need to pretend to be anyone here, because this love says “I see you, and I love you” or “I am flawed, too.” Raw, unprotected, no gimmicks. No matter where we have come from, this love surrounds us with a sincerity of calm and force that reverberates through every bone in our body.
Here is the difference.
A cultural love is dependent upon a feeling rather than a commitment. A feeling that is, most often, fleeting or dependent upon what we may or may not receive. A Biblical love is a feeling, yes, but more so a commitment based on a personal choice.
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Matthew 12:28-31
A cultural love depends on the other person, whether they are lovable or worthy of our love. Or, looking back on my ideal of love, what they can give us that benefits us. A Biblical love is again a choice; we can love the unlovely, the downcast, the simple, the faulty, the quiet. There is no greater example than that of Christ. Christ died for us while we were still enemies of God. He knew what was on the table, He knew the state of humanity, and He loved us anyway. He chose us when no one else would. He chose us when we had nothing to give, but a life full of sin and depravity.
For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5:10
No record of who gave what, who did what, or who was right and wrong. This love is less about self and more about communion with another, a forever clean slate. It is about meeting the needs of another before asking for ours to be met.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:5
Many times, the world’s idea of love is to love those who can further your career or those from whom you can get something that you need; this is not a Godly love. Biblical love is not limited to only the beautiful people, or the rich, or the successful. A love without regulations or limits. A mingling of grace and force reverberating through our veins.
Look at the lengths God went to to show His love to us. A love without limits to the extent that He gave His Only Son to show us such a limitless love.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-17
Maybe at times the cultural love we see every day is more appealing, perhaps more rewarding in the moment, but there is no love in this world that could match the love that God has shown to us. That is the same love we are called to. Selfless, self-giving, built on a foundation beyond our own selves.
Our culture today has constructed an idea of love that is moving further and further away from true love that is found only in God. Trying to build a false reality of intimacy and truth. When it comes to love, humanity’s version is but a pale shadow compared to the truth of God’s love.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Follow Katherine on Instagram and be sure to check out more of her writing here.