What is love?

I think it is safe to say that we as a culture are obsessed with love or at least the idea of love. We listen to songs about it, watch movies about it, read books about it. We think about how we can better love ourselves, love our spouses, love our children, and love others. Selling love has become a multi-billion industry in it’s multiple forms. Those who don’t have it long for it, and those who have it try to figure out how to hold on to it or find it in new ways.

Often times when we lose the feeling of love we turn to new things in an attempt to get that feeling back often times with failure and sin as a result. There are those who have mastered the craft of the illusion of love. People who have studied the feeling of love and like a painter are able to create it. But like a painting it is only a two dimensional and lacks depth. We have taken a great and wonderful thing and made it trivial and cheap. We treat love like a drug and or a solve it all. All the while we tend to only seek love for our benefit.

The story in Hosea is a beautiful love story filled with tragedy and joy, tears, and rejoicing. Hosea is a story of a man who deeply loves his unfaithful wife, and it is also the story of how the children of Israel have left their first love. But it is also a story of you and I.  A story written some almost three thousand years ago that today still speaks true. It is all a story that today is an all too common scenario. A story that at the time it was written was scandalous, but today makes the for good television. It is story of a fall from grace and an undeserving return to glory.

I think the thing that makes the story of Hosea, and Gomer so great is that Gomer thought she knew what love was. She thought she had an understanding of what love was, and sadly it is the same misunderstanding that many of us have. But she learned what love truly was and is not because of her seeking but because of her husbands seeking of her.

Hosea 2:5 says “For their mother has played the harlot; She who conceived them has behaved shamefully for she said I will go after my lovers, who gave me my bread and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.”

Gomer the wife of Hosea decided that her husband was not enough for her, more to the point she decided he was not the provider she needed. She had desires for more that he did not provide. She wanted things more than she wanted her husband and family. She loved other things more. Notice she refers to the providers of these things as her lovers who gave me.. It was the things she wanted more than her husband. She desired these things and these many men more than Hosea. This was not a marriage on the rocks. Not a marriage where her husband did not love her. It is very clear from the text that Hosea loved his wife dearly. She and she alone was the one with issue.

In the same way we too leave God for other lovers. Maybe it is not full leaving maybe it is just a little something on the side. You hold a little back from offering so you can get that shirt, or watch, or rims. You skip fellowship so you can have a little more time to play that game, or get caught up on work, or finally spend some quality time with NetFlix. It is not leaving just a little flirting. You have not cheated on your girl it’s just a work wife because it’s fun. It is just a little harmless fun.

But a little this and a little that make a lot of something.

We look for things that will give us the thing we want; the feeling of love. When we see something that might be it or even lead to it we follow it. We chase love and the idea of love relentlessly all the while not realizing that a relentless love is chasing us.

Don’t get me wrong love is not a bad thing I love love. The problem is our understanding of love. The problem is that we sometimes love the wrong things and don’t understand what love is. We love tacos, cookies, and Jesus. As if these three things are the same.

We chase things that are not love as if they were. We long for what we do not have all the while completely missing the thing in front of us. A big part of the problem if not the whole problem is we do not understand what love is.

Here is three examples of misunderstanding what love is.

So it’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames, you can tell me when it’s over if the high was worth the pain, Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane, cause you know I love the players and you love the game. – Taylor Swift.

Oh won’t you stay with me, cause you’re all I need. This ain’t love it’s clear to see but darling stay with me. – Sam Smith

Well you only need the light when it’s burning low, Only miss the sun when it starts to snow, Only know you love her when you let her go. – Passenger

You have a song about talking about love as a temporary passion, one that wants love knowing it does not have it, and one that says you only know you have love when it is gone.

Love as defined by Webster’s dictionary is a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person and the strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship. This is nice but easy to fall in and out of. This is just an affection it is no more than a stong like, and I can stop liking something or someone pretty quick. We have turned love into a feeling. A strong feeling but a feeling nonetheless. We love out of our desire, needs, and wants. We love when there is something in it for us.

God does not command that we really like our neighbor. Jesus does not say in Luke 10:27 you should really like the LORD your God. No it says you should LOVE the LORD your God.  The love being used here in the Greek means to wish well to, take pleasure in, long for; denotes the love of reason, esteem. It is so much more than like or strong like. Biblical love is crazy dedication.

So how does the Bible define love. After all if we are going to talk about Biblical love we should define it.

1 Corinthians 13:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

If I had to sum it up I would say the Bible define love as a selfless devotion to others that is ready and willing to go the distance.

There was a man a few years back named Kamal Saleem who was a part of something called Culture Jihad. It is a branch of jihad that instead of guns and swords to attack the flesh they instead choose to attack the mind. He moved himself to America to begin to reshape America for Islam. Long story short he was in a horrible accident one day on his way to recruit some young men. He was thrown from his car and broke his neck in two places. He was found by some christians who called 911. He was brought to a christian hospital where all of his bills where paid and treatment was set up for him. He knew they were all the same people he wanted to destroy (christians). They put him in an apartment after he was released from the hospital, and even bought him a car. One day he realized that these same people he wanted to destroy loved him without condition and he decided to take his life because of his confusion but he heard a voice call him by name and tell him to cry out to God. He did and God answered. This man now has a large ministry dedicated to seeing people find freedom in Christ.

Back to Luke 10 Jesus then goes on to talk about loving your neighbor as yourself and tells the story of the good Samaritan. A man who had no reason whatsoever to love the beaten and battered Jew. Let me ask you this and I understand that no one wants to hear this and I do not want to say it. If a member of rival sports team was beaten and battered would you help? If it was the one who your spouse cheated on you with would you still be willing to help? What if it was the person who got you wrongly fired? What if it was a member of ISIS or Al Quada? If you are walking down Main St and someone was bruised bloody and dying would it matter who they are before you help them?

We have to love, we have to choose love. We have Jesus as our example of what love does. We look to Him and see how love responds. Not living out of feelings no matter how strong.

We go back to our love story in Hosea 2:14-16 “Therefore behold, I will allure her, will bring her back into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her. I will give her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; she shall sing there as in the days of her youth. As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt. And it shall be in that day, says the LORD that you will call me My Husband (Ishi – husband, mighty man, him that is, great) and no longer call me My master (Baali – My master, captain, chief man, have to do.)”

That parallel between two words is like an obligation and a choice. It is like the difference between the old ball and chain, and my wife.

We look and see that even before we get cleaned up God is calling us to Him. We did not get to get right before we could get right with God. It says in Romans that while we still sinners Christ died for us. He did it out of love. God is love and whoever lives in love, lives in God (1 John 4:16).

The whole point of what I am saying is this. God loves you and loved you before you were worth loving and He says we are to love as well. We are to love God and love our neighbor. We are to live in love. We are to love the brethren and being willing to lay ourselves down for them. We are to love others and show them a more excellent way. We are to be known for our love. I say it again we are to be about the business of love.

We are to love our children when they don’t ask for it. We are to  love our spouses when they are being difficult. We love our parents when they are being crazy. We are to love our pastors when they seem to require much from us. Love is not a feeling but an action. We must be about the business of love, because it is the business God is in.

In looking at Hosea and Gomer again. Love is worth it. Love wins. Hosea buys back his wife at a great price. A price higher than any of her false lovers would be willing to pay. A price that was above and beyond what any slave was worth. Hosea paid this price because she was no slave but his bride.

We need to first understand that God is love. We can hear that and not understand it. Read 1 Cor 13:4-8a again but this time replace Love with God. God suffers long and is kind; God does not envy; God does not parade Himself, He is not puffed up; He does not behave rudely; He does not seek His own, He thinks no evil. he does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth.

Jesus went to and died on a cross for a Bride. He purchased you back with His own blood He bought back as His bride. He paid a price that no one else was willing to pay. No false lover came to your rescue, no tempter ever thought to secure you. Jesus laid down His life to redeem you. Hosea purchased his wife with things that perish because his love while great had an end. 1 Peter 1:18-19 says:

“Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by traditions from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

Jesus purchased His bride with things that do not perish because His love does not end. That starts to build a pretty good picture.

Later read it again but put yourself in there you will quickly see where you need to work on things. You will have a hard time saying certain things. Your voice might even crack a little when you read words you know are not true about yourself. Read them anyway. Then ask God to help you become those things.

Just a thought,

Mike

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One thought on “What is love?

  1. Pingback: Compounding Interest and Faith | Freedom in Truth

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