God is love, but we don’t really know what love is

We’ve made an idol out of love. Or out of what we call love.

“But,” you say, “God is love. Love can’t be an idol.”

It can be when you don’t define it as God does.

Our definition of love is an all-consuming passion for another human being (or animal or thing), a passion so strong, eating and drinking are difficult, we can hardly look that person in the eye, and yet we want to hold them tight and close and never let them go. Not because doing so would be good for them, but because we think doing so would be good for us.

This is not how God defines love.

Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Later in God’s Word, we’re given an extended definition:

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

Love is looking out for the needs of another with little regard for oneself. Love gives up its own desires and needs to wait on and meet the needs of another. Love seeks to do the other person right, to put them in a better position than they are now. Love has nothing to do with what I want or what I feel. It has everything to do with what the other person needs.

Our pedestaled definition of love is entirely backwards. God is love, but not the type of love that squeezes the life and vibrancy out of someone because He wants them all His own. His love for us is a love that seeks to make things right with us and improve our status, because that will be better for us than staying where we are.

And because God is God and created, knows, and understands all things, the goal of His love, ultimately, is to bring us back into His design and make us properly working members in this world and the world to come.

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