During my awkward and at times unfortunately unforgettable teenage years, DC Talk hit the scene.
When my youth group would go to camp or go on mission trip we traveled in a long caravan of about seven or eight 15-passenger vans. Every single one of those vans had a tape of DC Talk's Free At Last album and we played it. Over and over again. I remember one van actually wearing out their tape and having to get someone else's. Fortunately, at least half the members in the youth group had a copy so the jamming could easily continue.
While I can still quote nearly the entire album - including the track transitions (Hello, this is Greer, anyone?) - one of the songs that has stuck with me is Luv is a Verb. Yes. Love spelled with a u. We were cool in the 90s.
One of the lines in the song says that "words come easy but don't mean much". It's so very true. It can be so easy to say that we love someone, until push comes to shove and that love requires sacrifice.
This is why God took such care to define love in the Bible. He knew we would struggle with the truth of what love is. It isn't that warm, fuzzy feeling that makes us go goo-goo over someone else. Love is a choice to put that person ahead of ourselves. In certain relationships it's certainly nice if we also go goo-goo over that person, but that by itself isn't love. It's attraction.
So what is love? It's sacrifice. Not necessarily to the point of death, though Jesus certainly took it there. (John 15:13) But in every relationship where we claim to love the other person, God calls us to set aside pride, ambition, and sometimes even our own desires.
Love is patient; love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish; is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
This biblical definition of love puts the whole thing on me, not the person I'm loving. As with any other action, loving someone is a choice. It isn't always an easy one, but God gives us a roadmap of what it looks like when we make that choice.
As a parent, a wife, a daughter, and a friend, I can assure you that I fail at this. I fail more than I'd like. My patience is limited, selflessness is certainly not my strong suit, and my endurance is often constrained by how late I went to bed the night before. But, fortunately, I have a God that has perfected every aspect of what love truly is. He's perfected it to the point of sacrificing His son, who loved me to the point of death.
God loves me. He forgives me without keeping a record of my numerous wrongdoings. And He is more than willing to teach me how to love better. But I have to willing to work at it.
Ask anyone who has been lovingly married for ten years and they will tell you, their understanding of love is deeper now than it was when they said "I do". The key to love is that you let it keep growing. It is a continual choice, a promise to stick things out, to do the things God commands. Remember love never ends, even when the warm fuzzies do.
So, think about this the next time you say, “I love you.” What are you really saying? Can you put 1 Corinthians 13 into that sentence?
I am being patient with you. I am being kind to you. I do not envy you. It gets very hard to say those sentences, but that’s what love really is. It’s not just something you say, it’s something you do. But it is absolutely worth it. It’s the essence of who God really is. Go out today and choose love. Live love. And show it by your actions.