February, Valentine’s Day and love – these thoughts are associated together at this time of year. We assign a wide array of meanings to this word, love. Love carries us to the heights of ecstasy and to the deepest valley of despair. The Bible tells Christians our number one duty is to love God with all our heart as well as loving others as ourselves. Love is to be the purest of motivations (1 Corinthians 13). How can we develop a heart that loves more?
The source of love
All human love no matter how sincere is tainted by sin and selfishness. “What is in it for me?” we ask. I am in love with this person because of how they make me feel? At the core my love is about me. Pure and perfect love originates with God. It is not just that God loves but God is love (1 John 4:8). Love is the essence of God’s being. The only way we can truly love another is to be born of God and allow God’s love to flow through our heart and life
(1John 4:7). We love God because he first loved us. To develop a heart of real love begins with receiving God’s love in the form of his Son (1John 4:9-10).
Scripture says no one has seen God. But we have seen the manifestation of God’s love for us through the cross. God sent his son Jesus to die on the cross to be the propitiation for our sin. Like God love is seen through our actions. True love is more than a feeling; it is a decision and an action. God tells us that since he has loved us, we ought to love one another. Mature God-like love for others will be seen through our actions. We choose to treat someone with Christ-like love whether we feel like it or not, whether they deserve it or not. It is this kind of love that identifies real disciples of Christ (John 13:35). Our goal in life is to influence as many people as possible to know, love and follow the God we love.
What does love look like?
As we said before, love is the supreme motivation for all we do in life. Without this motive all the good deeds done for God are empty and meaningless. To bear the image of God means we are motivated by the same thing that motivates God — love.
What does God’s love look like when lived out through our life? 1 Corinthians 13:4-13 describes for us what real love looks like.
- It is patient and kind — it puts up with a lot and doesn’t respond in harshness.
- It doesn’t envy or boast — it isn’t always trying to one up others. It isn’t jealous over what others have. It doesn’t put others down to make them feel better.
- It isn’t arrogant or rude — feeling I’m superior, talking to others in a condescending way.
- It doesn’t insist on its own way — being irritable or resentful when it doesn’t get it. This attitude is rooted in anger in all its forms.
- It doesn’t rejoice in wrongdoing — whether doing wrong himself or hearing of others doing wrong. It doesn’t take pleasure in vengeance or hearing about the problems of his enemies.
- It rejoices in truth — that which is right and when people do right (Philippians 4.8).
- It bears all things — this is a summary of all that has been mentioned so far.
- It believes all things — all that is good, right and God’s promises.
- It hopes all things — hopes for the best in others.
- It endures all things — it won’t grow weary in well doing.
Love never ends. Faith and hope will end because one day they will become reality. Paul tells us in this chapter that as we mature, we give up childish ways. As we become more Christ like, others will see more of God’s love in us. We no longer act or react in unloving ways.
How can we tell if we are developing a heart of love for God and others? Good question, the answer lies in circumstances and other people — how we react to each. My reaction to the negatives in both realms shows me how much has changed in me and how much work is left to do to become a more loving person. Rather than complain about others or the circumstances, we need to see both as God’s instruments to develop us into a more loving person.
Our natural tendency would be to run away or ask God to change things. God’s answer is usually I want to change you. If we run God will just have similar people or circumstances at the next location. God is totally committed to returning each of his children to the image of God. He will not stop until the job is done. A mark of progress is when we can see the negative people and circumstances as God’s instruments for building a heart that loves God more and thank God for them. This is how God turns the negatives of life into positives, which in turn causes us to love him more. Then we can see what is in our heart — a love for God or self.
Dr. John Hawkins, Sr. runs Gateway Counseling Center in Boynton Beach along with his son John Jr. He can be reached by visiting gatewaycounseling.com.