What is love? According to the Bible, it’s an intentional act that can involve pain, sacrifice, and selflessness. It’s very different from what pop culture tells us of love. So why would we want to experience it? Because, when we open our hearts to this type of love, we emerge transformed and renewed.
Love According to the Bible
Our world presents love as either an intoxicating emotion that makes all things right, or a mysterious experience that transports lonely individuals to perpetual happiness. These mysterious emotions certainly seem powerful, but they are also incredibly elusive.
In contrast, the Bible presents love as an intentional action that can be described, applied and evaluated. The Bible’s call to “love one another” is an invitation to live in a way that is unnatural to our human senses, but that ultimately is more rewarding than most of the modern representations of love we see in magazines, movies and in love songs.
God’s Instructions for Love
John 15 is one of the Savior’s most insightful discussions of how to become a truly loving person. In this chapter, Jesus describes love and provides instructions on how to activate it in our lives. Notice how his description of true love goes against our instincts:
Real love often involves pain, and we try to avoid pain.
John 15:2: Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful
Real love involves sacrifice, and we tend to avoid sacrifice.
John 15:13: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends
Real love is given without conditions, and we tend to want “fairness.”
John 15:3: You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
Real love is selfless, and we are not good at being selfless.
John 15:8: This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples
Recognizing Moments of Real Love
This passage of the Bible hit home for me as I have been helping my elderly parents. They don’t drive, don’t move fast and don’t adjust well to anyone else’s needs. They have fascinating stories to tell, but life at their house runs on its own rules and at its own pace (which is dramatically slower than I am used to). Their days are dominated by health concerns, hygiene struggles and trusted routines. Visiting them, therefore, means setting aside my opinions and skill at managing my schedule and submitting to my parents’ needs.
Adding to the drama, my parents are critical of any changes I suggest, even if they are in their best interests. At the same time, I have a deep-seated love for Dad and Mom which is not based on my own effort or intention. The Spirit who resides within urges me to love them with the same strength that motivated Jesus to give his life on the cross for me, even though I didn’t deserve it.
Connecting With Christ
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Real love, therefore, requires more than just self-discipline or human determination. It grows out of a supernatural connection with the Savior.
Jesus loves the people He created, so when He takes residence in our lives, He brings that love with Him. When you are connected with Him, His determination to work through the pain, sacrifices and selflessness that accompany relationships becomes your desire also. You can take the following steps to build this supernatural connection:
- Memorize John 15:5.
- Ask God each morning to provide His love for the people in your life.
- Yield to promptings in your head and heart that you know are different than you would come up with on your own.
A Prayer to Help Us Love
Jesus, thank you for loving us when we didn’t deserve it. Please give us your ability to love others, even when our natural tendencies tell us they don’t deserve it.
You may also be interested in The 10 Best Bible Verses About Love