The Meaning of Love

By Ricky Chelette

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

Valentines Day has come and gone.  We’ve seen all kinds of images of love from our authoritative arbiter of worldview, Facebook:  sweet couples together kissing and sharing moments; pictures of roses and bouquets of flowers from admirers; elegant and overpriced meals skillfully (or not so skillfully) photographed; silhouette of couples walking into the sunset; mom’s kissing babies and babies kissing puppies.  The images all make for great postings, but do they really help us understand love?

Where do we go for a real picture of the meaning of love?  Romance novels and movies portray love as some romantic encounter filled with irrational feelings of emotions and euphoria.  Today’s idea of love is often completely self-focused and feeling oriented. It is centered on me feeling good and me feeling – whatever those feelings might be – with an intensity that elevates the moment to life-altering ecstasy.  As a result, we have assigned the word “love” to any number of seemingly uncontrollable feelings or desire to do whatever we want to do as long as it makes me feel good.  Feeling good has become the most “loving” thing.

But love has not always been such a nebulous and ambiguous term.  In fact, one man defined love more than any other.  He left perfection and ultimate power for the confines of human reality, born in poverty as a helpless baby, in order to rescue a sinful, disobedient creation.  He willingly took on human relating to assure that we humans could access heavenly connection with our Creator.  He knowingly took on the punishment for humanity’s wrongs in order to pay the debt they owed; a debt they could never pay.

From even the most cynical estimation he was an amazing man.  From a rational person’s perspective he was surely a hero.  From a spiritual perspective he was a Savior.  From a “love” perspective, he redefined what real love is for all time.  He said, “No one takes it [my life] from me, but I lay it down on my own accord.  I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18).  That is real love – loving enough to be willing to die for someone that can really do nothing of value for you.  It is a love that is other-focused, not self-focused.  It is a love that willingly sacrifices one’s personal pleasures for the good of others. It is a love that gives till it dies for the good of another.  It is the kind of real love the Gospel speaks of that when experienced, transforms the vilest of sinners into the grandest of saints. It is the kind of love that transformed Saul from a hater of the church and a killer of Christians, to Paul, protector of the church and lover of Christians.  It is the kind of love we need more of in our modern world.  It is the kind of love Jesus demonstrated on the cross to reconcile man with God.  It is Gospel love and it changes everything.

In a day when love is said to justify everything from abortion sex outside of marriage, Jesus speaks with clarion clarity that real love is not about self, it is about others.  It is not something to possess, but something that possesses us.  It is not something we create, but something we give because we have been the undeserved recipients of it ourselves. It is, in a word, the Gospel.

Have you experienced real love in your life?  Not simply the love of another person, a friend, or even a spouse, but the love of Jesus given for you on the cross?  If you have, how are you sharing that love with others?  If you haven’t, take some time and read the book of John and discover the One who is the source and giver of all love, Jesus. When you do, it will transform your life!