There are many different definitions for love. We love spaghetti. We love our cloths. We love the book that we are reading. We love our family members. We love our spouse. We love God.
Isn’t it interesting that we use this powerful, beautiful word so loosely in our everyday lives?
Several years ago, while preparing to taking a Divorce Recovery class, I learned a definition for love from my mentor that significantly changed my life. The definition she gave me was: Love is the unconditional, self-giving to the highest gain of the other person.”
Nice words, but what do they really mean? If we were to write an “amplified” version of this definition, it might read something like this: “Love is free from imperfection, restrictions, exceptions, or qualifications and is reflected by a committed, sacrificial giving of oneself with an inner attitude of esteem and respect for the other person while placing their best interest always in the forefront of your actions toward them with no expectations of reciprocation.”
Love is a choice, an action, not just an emotional response. We are to love even when we may not “feel” love or even if the other person is not being loving or nice toward us. Our actions toward others are to come from a loving heart, an inner attitude grounded in love, without any requirements or expectations from the other person.
With God, WHO IS LOVE, as our foundation we will know when and where to place healthy boundaries in all our relationships, whether marital, familial, friendly, neighborly or societal. God is our example of unconditional, self-giving love which is given even when it is undeserved by the recipient. When we do not feel love toward another, we can love as unto the Lord, and He will help us come from a place, a heart, of love when interacting with others. It is easy when we remember that it is God who we are accountable to and not others. It is God’s opinion of us, His rewards, that ultimately matters – not the judgment or opinions of our fellowman or even our own personal emotions.
One of the great ironies in life is that when we are focused on pleasing God by showing unconditional love toward others even when we may feel others are undeserving, and we choose to interact with them from a loving heart and with loving actions, we are rewarded by God for our obedience. Even if the person we extend love to never loves back in their actions toward us, others will see our actions and God will bless us both here on earth and in eternity.
But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked “Him a question,” testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22:34-40 NKJV
Oh gracious and forgiving Lord, help each of us to be extenders of Your unconditional love to those who touch our lives. Give us Your heart, Your grace, and Your mercy toward all people. As we encounter difficulties with others, take us to our knees in prayer, renew our hearts and help us to remember that all love is from You – it begins and ends with You. Help us to see that Your desire for us is to allow Your love to flow through us, through our actions toward others, knowing that our reward will be from You in Your perfect time.
In Christ’s Name,
First written on 9/23/06