Love is Not a Shade of Gray
The Bible tells us that some teachers of the law of the Old Testament came to Jesus and said, “Jesus, there's lots of commands of God in the Old Testament. What's the most important?” Jesus without hesitation looked at them and said, “Here's the answer…”
Mark 12:29-31 “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
Love is number one. Love matters most to God.
So, what is real love? How do we experience love that lasts a lifetime? Is it even possible?
If I want to enjoy a genuine love in my life, I have to begin by asking what love is.
WHAT IS LOVE?
Love is one of the most misunderstood words in our language today. I can say, “I love my wife, Nancy,” and “I love pepperoni pizza,” and I hope you know there's a difference in the way I use those two terms. But there's no way in our language to tell. “Love” is a very misunderstood word.
There are many popular misconceptions about love. There's a lot of stories about love that makes great books, that make great songs, that make great movies, but don't tell the whole truth about what love is.
Love is even sometimes romanticized. It's great for entertainment. You grow up thinking you're Snow White and you're going to marry Prince Charming, but what happens when you get Grumpy? You think it's not a good deal, a bait and switch thing -- it's not fair!
What is real love? We all suffer from some real misconceptions. Let me just give you two:
Popular Misconceptions About Love:
Love is just a feeling.
One misconception is that love is just a feeling. A great feeling, but just a feeling. That it's all emotional. Love does produce feelings, some wonderful feelings, but it is more than a feeling. Much deeper than that.
Love is uncontrollable.
A lot of the words we use to go along with love is saying it's uncontrollable. We say things like, "I fell in love." Doesn't that sound strange? Like you're walking down the street and fell in love, like you fell in a ditch. You tripped and fell. You couldn't help it. It's was a pure accident. The problem is if you fall in love, you can fall out of love just as easily.
What God Says About Love:
Love is a matter of choice.
Love is definitely controllable. Jesus commanded that we love each other. Jesus never commanded us to feel a certain way. He just commanded us to do the right things. You can't command a feeling. But God does command our action. He says, “I want you to make a choice to love.”
Colossians 3:14 “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”
It's like when you get up in the morning and make a choice about what you're going to wear. You don't just wake up and fall into the closet and come out dressed. You make a choice about what you're going to wear. Some of us make good choices. Some of us don’t. The Bible says, "Why don't you do the same thing with love." When you get up in the morning, make a choice: “I'm going to love people today.”
It is a choice.
Love is a matter of conduct.
1 John 3:18 “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”
It's about the way that we act. The Greeks had four words when they talked about love: affection, sexual attraction, friendship, unconditional actions of love towards another. This last word is the word that's used here. It's the word used of God's love for us. We act in love. It's a commitment to act in love towards another person.
This is why we can actually love people, when we don't actually like what they're doing. God's not commanding that we have a warm affection for everyone. There were some guys in Jesus' life named Pharisees. One time He walked up to them and said, "You guys are a bunch of snakes. You put heavy religious loads on other people." Does that sound like warm affection to you? No! But He loved them because He loved everybody.
We can love people and not like everything they do. Because love is a way that we act.
I ACT LIKE LOVE ACTS
This is the tough part.
Once I've found out what it is, I've got to start doing it in my life. A simple list that God gave us is found in 1 Corinthians 13. It's as if He knew we were going to say, "How does it work? What do I do?" He gave a list: Here's what love does. Here's what love doesn't do. Here's a simple, practical list.
Love isn't just something to talk about. It's something to do.