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True Love: What it is and What it isn’t

By: Kristen Clark

James and Bridget were approaching their four year marriage anniversary when Bridget suddenly filed for a divorce. Things had become rocky within the first year of marriage and neither one did much to help the situation.

Shortly before filing for a divorce, one of Bridget’s friends tried to convince her to stay in the marriage and work things out.

“I just can’t do this anymore.” Bridget said with a stern face. “And honestly, I don’t really love James anymore. The love we had when we got married dissolved a long time ago.”

Jessica was a recent high school graduate and was trying her hardest to get out of her hometown.

“I want to get away from here. I’m sick of this town.” she told one of her friends over coffee one morning.

“Why are you so anxious to get away?” her friend asked confused.

“Honestly,” Jessica said as a cloud of anger washed over her face, “my dad is the reason I want to get away. He’s been so consumed with work over the past four years that I’ve hardly seen him at all. I’m just so angry at him for blowing me off. I’ve lost all respect and love for him.”

Although Bridget and Jessica both faced really tough circumstances in their lives, their view of “love” was completely false.

For them, true love was based on what the other person gave to them. When the other person wasn’t meeting their expectations, they decided that love was gone.

As you probably know, we live in a culture where love is portrayed as a warm feeling, a romantic spark, and a happy circumstance. Once the happy feelings of “love” are gone, we’re taught to assume that love must be dead. Time to move on. Time to start over.

Sadly, this false view of love, as glamorous as it may seem, has driven thousands of marriages and relationships into the ground. Just look at Hollywood. It’s rare to find a long term committed marriage.

As Christian girls, if we want better results for our marriages and relationships, we have to learn how to truly love people.

We have to learn how to love people according to God’s definition of love. And if we do, our lives will be radically changed. God’s recipe for true love has the power to change lives, restore relationships and draw you closer to your family and friends.

God is so passionate about us understanding what true love is that He gave us an entire chapter of the Bible dedicated to the topic. Grab your Bible (or Bible app) and quickly read 1 Corinthians 13. It’ll only take you 2 minutes. I’ll wait till you’re done. *Background music plays*

Did you read it? Okay, what did you notice about it?

Did you notice how shockingly countercultural God’s definition of true love is?

Unlike Hollywood’s “feelings driven” version of love, God’s definition is driven by actions. It’s not based on what anybody else does or doesn’t do, it’s solely based on your own personal choices.

Let’s quickly break down that chapter and see what true love is, and what it isn’t. I’m pulling these lists from several different Bible translations.

According to 1 Corinthians 13, true love IS…

Patient
Kind
Rejoices in the truth
Bears all things
Believes all things
Hopes all things
Endures all things
Keeps no record of wrong
True love never fails

According to 1 Corinthians 13, true love ISN’T…

Envious
Jealous
Boastful
Arrogant
Dishonoring to others
Self-seeking
Easily angered
Delights in evil

According to those two lists, do you think Bridget and Jessica’s version of love looked more like list 1 or list 2?

Like we learned before, true Biblical love isn’t based on what the other person can do for you, but what you will choose to do for them.

Christ is the most incredible example of true love that the world has ever seen. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

While you and I were self-seeking, self-focused, self-pleasing, wretched sinners, Christ died for us. Wow. He chose to love us when we had nothing to offer Him.

John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Self-sacrifice is the essence of true love.

The greatest act of love is giving up your most precious gift, your life, for the sake of someone else.

And Christ showed us that incredible kind of love.

Now, most of us probably won’t be called to sacrifice our body and life for someone else. However, we should be actively striving to lay down our life (our wants, desires, expectations, etc.) for the sake of others every day.

Putting others above ourselves and choosing to show love to them is exactly what Christ demonstrated through His death on the cross.

Imagine the impact that kind of love could have on Bridget and Jessica’s relationships.

Truly loving others isn’t easy, but it is worth it.

We can’t do it on our own though. We need the strength and power of Christ to enable us to demonstrate this kind of love.

I am striving to live out Christ’s definition of love everyday, and it’s hard. I’m not always that great at it, but with Christ’s strength, I know He will help me do it. I challenge you to do the same thing.

I also want to challenge you to read 1 Corinthians 13 every morning for the next 7 days. Ask God to change your heart, mind and actions to view love the way He does. Ask God to give you the strength to show true love to everyone you know.

Chat with me below!

  • Where does your definition of love come from? Actually, let me put it this way: If I could secretly spy on your life for one week, which kind of love would I see you displaying to your family?
  • Does your life display a “feelings based” version of love, or an “actions based” version of love.
  • Are you withholding love from a family member or friend right now? If so, what steps do you need to take to show that person Christ-like love?
  • Share with me one example of someone you know who is great at sacrificially loving others!

Photo credit: Here

Girl smiling and showing true love

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  • Anonymous

    This is an amazing article and I really needed to hear this! Great job! Keep up the good work. Everyone needs to read things like this!!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. We are encouraged to know this post was helpful to you! Blessings! -Kristen

  • Elizabeth Williams

    I think the biggest thing for me is that sometimes I show love to someone because that person loves me or is nice to me, etc. But God is constantly encouraging me to show love to others even when they don’t like you or aren’t nice to you or others,etc. I can think I’m a very loving person, but when I really think about it, the type of love I show costs me nothing. It becomes a sacrifice when we there’s nothing we can get out of it. Sometimes that may mean showing love to someone when we don’t think they deserve it or when we aren’t expecting anything in return

    • Great thoughts Elizabeth! Thanks so much for sharing. Sounds like God is challenging you a lot in the area of true love. Keep striving to honor Him! I’m sure you are a light to many. Blessings! -Kristen

  • Rebekah Baird

    Thanks Kristen!! This was such a good description of what love really is! You’re blog was very helpful!! 🙂

  • Kristina Miller

    This is good! Thank you for all the encouragement for us young ladies!

  • Anna Hannigan

    Thank you for writing about the what true love is. You are right; the majority have believed an unbiblical view of love. However, I disagree with you on one point: the call to sacrifice our bodies.
    All women who marry, get pregnant, and have children (or perhaps not marry and have children), will be called to sacrifice their bodies whether they like it or not. As you have mentioned in other posts, it is a unique honor and privilege that we have as women to grow life and bear children, but ladies please know that your body will be a living sacrifice for your child. How you respond to it can be either loving or hateful. After (and during) having a child you will have scars or stretch marks, hips will widen, skin will stretch. You can chose to love your child past the scars, as our Savior also chose to be scarred for you, or you can become bitter and angry that your body isn’t the same, jealous of women whose bodies have not changed, and maybe even dishonor or become arrogant with your husband because his body has not gone through what yours did.
    If you do have children it will truly be an awesome opportunity to be patient, kind, rejoice, bear, believe, hope, endure, and to keep no record of the scars or marks from that beautiful baby. Love never fails.
    Through all this breaking of your earthly body I hope you ultimately remember that it is just a picture to remind you Jesus’ body was broken for you to give you new life!

  • Anna Hannigan

    Sorry I missed this, but also to those of you who will foster or adopt, your bodies will be no less broken. Your back will be sore from carrying or chasing and you have the great and wonderful privilege of getting to feel what God does as he adopts us as sons and daughters into His kingdom.

  • afollower

    Great post. God bless you! Thank you for reaching ladies and helping them grow in following Christ in a world that is blurred with lies, lust, and confusion. ~ Watching, Preaching, Praying, a growing servant/life-slave of Jesus and a fellow laborer, SH

  • Jeanette Davis

    I truly believe a way to show love is to die to self. Often times we are wronged by those we love. Let it go. A soft answer turneth away wrath, be soft, be sweet. Reacting the wrong way can be destructive. Let God have it. If you really are trusting God, then go to Him and let Him take your hurt.

  • wrose

    I have an issue with feelings based love. I believe I practice action based love toward my family, but it’s typically feelings based love toward my friends and others that I care for. I will work on this.


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