What has become of our generation, that we can so easily throw around the word "love" without understanding the weight it bears? I see it all the time. On every form of social media, in every form of conversation, there is no regard for the word. There is no understanding of the inherent power it possesses. There is no internalization of the meaning with which it was once used. To our generation it is just a word, a word that holds no significance. To our generation, it is appropriate to equate love with the degree to which we enjoy pizza or chocolate.
Think about it, how many times did you say you "love" something this past weekend?This morning?
If you are anything like me, you can probably count several different times where you used love to describe your endearment of a certain object or satisfaction. We are all guilty of it, but I do not think we can wholly put the blame on ourselves.
We were born in a culture that says love is conditional. We live in a world that considers love to be a contract. Love is a checklist, whereas if one person does not meet the requirements, and does not fill in every box, is not worthy of our love or time. Despite "for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part" how many couples do we see filing for divorce? How many families do we see face devastation by a parental split?
Now I cannot possibly sympathize with those that have experienced divorce because I have parents that love each other unconditionally, through all the muck and difficult times of this world, they have made it through, and for that I can't be more thankful.
But in our culture, people have been indoctrinated with the idea that if things get too tough, or cuts are too deep, divorce is the only option. This indoctrination has led to a skewed and flawed picture of love, one that attributes greatly to our misuse of the word. This misuse not only severely affects the relationships we have with people on earth, but also greatly decreases the importance of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.
Christ dying on the cross for our sins was the wholly perfect demonstration of love. There is no greater display.
We see descriptions of God's love throughout the Bible:
"In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
—1 John 4:9, 10
"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God."
These descriptions of love by John and the Apostle Paul do not resemble the "conditional love nature" of a fallen world. John and Paul describe a love that surpasses all understanding, a love that cancels out all checklists. As sinful and broken people, we will never be able to lift a pencil to God's checklist because we can never meet the standard (Romans 3:23) of perfection He requires on our own accord. But that is why Christ's sacrifice is so...matchless. He took upon Himself, the sinless and perfect Son of God, the sins of every person. With His death, Jesus provided us with a way out. He showed the world what it means to truly love someone.
Christ displayed the sacrificial love we must consider when we think of love. He showed us the strength and severity with which we should honor and protect love. He showed us that love is so much more than butterflies in your stomach or a warm feeling in your chest. Love requires sacrifice, a continuous effort to look past flaws, mistakes, shortcomings, annoyances, and differences. Love calls for a giving up of oneself, a complete surrender of ourselves (John 15:12-13).
Never can we truly equate any feelings of desire or endearment to love until we fully grasp the sacrificial love of Christ crucified. We cannot know love unless we know God, because God is love. Any love apart from God is a shattered representation, no matter how beautiful and real it may appear on the surface. It is a striving after wind to attempt to find love that is not firmly planted in a relationship with Christ. It is a continuous struggle between pleasing the other and trying not to mess up. How can one function under those circumstances? The pressure must be unbearable.
The reason I can write about this so clearly is that I have been fooled into thinking I knew what love was. I mistakenly thought it was the feelings I felt, the emotions I experienced in my heart and mind. It was not a love characterized by the surrender of myself, not in the physical, mental, or spiritual sense. I was not ready to be the man they needed to lead them in a Christ-centered relationship. I didn't meet the standard God laid out for me and the example Christ displayed.
We must understand the need to handle love delicately with great trembling. It is so much more than many of us understand.
Are you willing to give yourself up for the sake of another? Test your heart, test your mind, test your spirit. You may find that you do not meet the standard as well. But that is the beauty of Christ, the Living Savior. We will always have an example of perfect surrender and complete sacrifice.