Singers wail about it; teenagers mope around starry-eyed because of it. We use the word to describe our feelings about Rocky Road ice cream, our favorite color, our dog, and the best singer on American Idol. What a handy multi-purpose word!
The problem--as we all know-- is that in the process it loses meaning.
Love is actually God's word. He thought of it first so he should get to define it. And he does an excellent job of defining it in I Corinthians 13. But his definition sounds nothing like ours.
What about when it's applied to the level of commitment between husband and wife?
That's closer, but still a long way off. As humans, we aren't really capable of God's kind of love without God. Even romantic love between spouses is usually rooted in selfishness.
What can he do for me?
How well does he meet my needs?
Is he living up to my expectations this week?
Or the Ann Landers special: "Ask yourself: Am I better off with him or without him?"
Notice how many times "me" and "my" popped up in there. Whether we like to admit it or not, most of who and what we love is based on how well they meet our needs. And that's the definition of selfishness, not love.
The kind of love God is able to produce in us is a sacrificial love. A love that would take beating and torture in the place of someone who hated you. That's the kind of love He has toward us for absolutely no reason at all except that that's just the way he is.
The love the Spirit of God produces says: I know you don't love me, but I love you because I can't help it. You're more important than I am, so what can I give you that you need?
Oooh! Ouch. How many times have I honestly felt that way about someone who didn't deserve it?
A quick test to see if you're there yet: Picture someone you know that you should love and ask yourself how much you are willing to sacrifice for that person.
Probably nothing, especially if they're after your parking space.
It's not likely that we can produce fruit like this without God's supernatural work inside our lives. Unless you've been feasting at the table of God's love, you don't have it to give away.
We give good imitations every now and then, but look closely. Most likely your loving actions are based on either a response to someone's kindness or have at their heart a selfish motive such as: I want them to like me...OR...I want others to see how nice I am...OR... I've felt bad about myself lately and being loving makes me feel better.
See? When compared side-by-side with the real thing, our version of love looks pretty pathetic. Our man-made imitations are fine if we want peach-flavored gelatin instead of fresh fruit, but who wants that?
God doesn't and deep down, we don't either. We crave ultimate, sacrificial love from others, but it's a lot harder to give.
That's exactly why we can't give it without God's love flowing through us in abundance. It's called the Fruit of the Spirit because without God's Spirit loving through us, we can't do it. Especially when they get our parking space.
The song was right. What the world needs now is love. Fortunately, God agrees and that's why it is number one on his Top Nine Countdown of Greatest Traits of All Time.
He doesn't expect you to do it on your own. He offers to do it through you. Which is a good thing, because the more I study His kind of love, the more I realize I can never do it by myself.
But what about joy? That's the next fruit on the list. Can't we do that on our own? Next post we'll see about that...