What is Love?
It is hard to recognize a lover if we can’t define love. One of the most disheartening narratives I witness in ministry is the effect misguided love, or the absence of love has on children as they move into young adulthood. Sons who see fathers abuse their mothers might believe love is obtained through subjugation. Daughters raised in similar environments might assume the way to find love is to do everything men expect of them. There is no need to elaborate on how these lessons impact young lives. It is probably safe to say, unless someone shows them a dramatically different model, they will never understand the meaning of love or come to know a true lover.
When the Apostle Paul needed a way to describe the love that exists between a man and woman in marriage, he references Jesus’ death on the cross. He wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27). Paul also addressed the subject of submission, which his approach clearly shows is not found in fear, but rather mutual respect.
We learn two things about love from Paul’s metaphor. First, the ultimate expression of love is found in sacrifice. Jesus was willing to die for us, and we follow His example by pouring our lives out for others. Secondly, the ultimate goal of love is eternal radiance. We want those we love to stand before God, unashamed and satisfied by His call on their lives. In other words, the greatest thing we can desire for those we love is their presence with us in heaven where we will praise the Lamb of God together. Love is not giving people everything they want. It is not the act of turning a blind eye to sin. Instead, love is pursuing the very best for others, which always involves obedience to the perfect will of God.