We live in a society that uses the word love just as casual as they do hello and good bye. Most associate lust with love and once the lust wears off, so does their affection for the person. Sadly to say, few ever find what is defined as true love, and even if they do it usually comes too late or under circumstance which prevents such a union. Usually they find a close facsimile of true love and accept their allotment in life. Others in a desperate search for pure love will jump from one adulterous marriage to another. So, does the bible ever instruct us what true love really is? Truly, it does!
Love Is Sacrifice
Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). There can be no greater sacrifice than this love. Jesus is alluding to his own death by the crucifixion. Jesus’ love for the most part is unrequited but nevertheless is pure love. Paul wrote, “But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). The apostle John reiterated this point by saying, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).
God sacrificed his son because he loved man (Jn 3:16). The Lord Jesus Christ loved us and gave himself for us (Gal. 2:20). Therefore, as we consider the death of Christ on the cross, and the resulting remission of our sins (Matt. 26:28), we are seeing love in action!
With this in mind, we see love as Paul writes to the Corinthians, telling them, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved” (2 Cor. 12:15). To “spend and be spent” meant Paul was willing to give every fiber of his being for them because he loved them.
Could we love those who hated us? Could we sacrifice for those who do not care about us? Christ encouraged such behavior in Matthew 5:43-44. He then asked the following questions: “For if you love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so?” (Matt. 5:46-47). John said, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn 3:16).
Let us consider the fact that the love husbands have for their wives is described as sacrifice. Paul wrote the Ephesian Christians and said, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. . . . So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself” (Eph. 5:25, 28). How much did Christ love the church? So much so that he gave his own life to purchase it (Acts 20:28). In like manner then, a man ought to love his wife to this degree — to be willing to give his life for her if that was what was required. A husband ought to be willing to make those sacrifices for his wife as well as his children (Eph. 6:4). This type of love emulates the love that God and Christ have for us.
What True Love Does
When we truly love God and Christ, we will obey his word. John recorded Christ’s words as he said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments. . . . If a man love me, he will keep my words. . . . He that loves me not keeps not my sayings” (John 14:15, 23-24). Further, John wrote, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). This is stated in a similar form in 2 John 6: “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments.” Just how obedient are we to the will of God? According to John, our love for God and our obedience to his word are directly proportional. The more we love him, the more we obey his will, the less we love him, the less we will be obedient to him. With this in mind, it is important to remember that James said: “Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin” (Jas. 4:17). The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23)!
Conclusion: Our love for God goes a long way in determining our eternal home. Without love for God, everything we do is in vain (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Our love for God motivates us to do what is right, to please him, and live for him all the days of our life. In this way, faith and love go together, for both are great motivators; yet they are worthless by themselves. Just as it is useless to merely claim to love God and do nothing about it; so also one cannot merely claim to have faith in God without obeying his will (John 14:15 f; Jam. 2:24, 26).
Do we have that sacrificial love for God? For our spouse? For our children? For our brethren? Does this kind of love fill our lives? This is what is necessary if we are going to be the kind of Christian God wants us to be. The love the Bible discusses is not for the faint of heart, nor for those merely giving “lip-service” to the Lord. This type of love is for the spiritually mature, and for those ready to do God’s will regardless of the circumstances and the sacrifices.
Most often in life we are not allotted exactly what we want in life. We rarely get the perfect spouse, perfect children, or even meet perfect brethren. Human beings are flawed, and such flaws are more obvious over much time and scrutiny. This is why greener pastures appear greener at a distance and not close up. True love for your spouse is not dependent upon your spouse loving you back at the exact same level. True love for your children is not dependent upon them loving you back at the exact same level. True love for our brethren is not dependent upon them loving you back at the exact same level. Jesus truly loved us enough to give up his life while we were still in our sins. If he had depended upon mankind to love him at the same level in which he loved us, he never would have sacrificed his life for us. Therefore, love your spouse, love your children, love all brethren, and even those who are your enemies. Above all things, love God enough to obey the gospel of Christ and faithfully continue in His doctrine until death (Jn 14:15 ff; Mk 16:16; Acts 2:38; 2 Jn 9; Rev 2:10).