Honestly, I spent forever trying to think of a witty one-liner to open this post with, but I couldn’t, so I’ll just say that love and what it means to be loving has been on my mind A LOT lately. Mostly because the world teaches us how to love completely the wrong way, and it’s something I notice more and more these days.
The world’s version of love is self-seeking, no matter how selfless it looks on the surface. What are the motivations behind your expression of love? What are you after when you throw your friend a birthday party, pay for your child’s education/phone bill/etc, buy your husband or boyfriend an amazing Christmas present? Do you want recognition? (If I’m being honest, that’s almost always my motivation!!!) Do you want control? Do you want reciprocation? Do you want to manipulate the person you’re “loving”?
All of the above, even the least threatening of those mentioned, are toxic ways to “love”. They all have a self-serving intention behind them. It’s not to say we’re monsters and we’re always consciously seeking praise, or seeking to manipulate someone else, but when you’re without Jesus, it happens.
So then what is love? Love does not do something nice for somebody else and then threaten to take it away later. Love does not constantly bring up the time it did a good deed. Love does not pay its child’s bills so that it feels permission to talk to its child anyway that Love pleases. Love does not give so it can receive praise (guilty again, hiiiii), Love does not give so it can receive, period. Love does not manipulate.
In the words of a writer who is waaaaaay more intelligent than me, author Max Lucado, “Love doesn’t ask, ‘What are my rights’, but instead, ‘What is loving?’”.
In other words, love doesn’t walk into an encounter thinking, “Given my position of power over this person, or my relationship with this person, just how mean can I be and still get away with it?”. This is a problem we face with the people closest to us in life, because we feel no obligation to outwardly love on them. We don’t have to be “nice” to our mothers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, and kids right?? She’s my mom and has to love me no matter what, so I can be as rude as I want. (Guilty again, wow, hi!!!!) He’s my brother so why would I need to serve him??? She’s my child and I provide for her...I should be allowed to speak as harshly as I want to her.
So then when did love become an obligation and when did harshness become a privilege? When did we start to see it as “I have to be nice” instead of “I get to love” and “I get to be mean” instead of “I would never want to hurt this person”. How crazy is this? It’s human nature to assert dominance where we can and to find power where we can grasp it in a tightly closed fist and not let go.
And the only thing that beats human nature is JESUS, yall!! Jesus didn’t provide for His people to gain power over them. He didn’t heal the sick so he could be praised. Every word he spoke and every miracle he performed was out of pure love: comfort, compassion, and selflessness. This level of love isn’t out of reach. We’ll never be perfect...I fail Jesus in my selfishness literally every single day. BUT, we can change the way we see love and we can definitely be able to recognize what is not loving, and change the way we treat others accordingly. There isn’t a food chain or pecking order in Jesus’s eyes, and there isn’t a heavenly snap cup for good deeds, either (lmk if you get the Legally Blonde reference), and love is something we get to do, not something we have to do.
The only motivation behind love should be to make another person feel as loved as they actually are. To understand their place in the eyes of God. To feel and to know Love, Himself.
“Let love be genuine. Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good.”