Love is such a broad word in our culture today. It’s very difficult to even give it a definition. We use the word love to help describe our favorite foods or favorite places. We say things like “I love pizza,” or “I love New York.” We use the word love to describe a strong romantic feeling. We watch movies where a guy and a girl have this miraculous interaction and fall madly in love after a few whole weeks of knowing each other. We have essentially redefined the word love to fit the context of our culture.
The bible says in 1 John 4: 8 that “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Therefore, if He is love, then doesn’t God get to define it? If God sent His Son Jesus into this world because He so loved us, then didn’t Jesus perfectly model the definition of love? I wonder if, rather than truly studying the life of Jesus to get our definition of love, we have taken the liberty to define it however we want in order to make sure it fits comfortably in our lives.
When I look at the life of Jesus, when I read about the things He did and the things he instructed us to do, I see a huge gap between our definition of love and His. Our culture’s definition of love sounds something like, “Just do whatever makes you happy. If it feels right then it probably is. Treat others the way that they treat you. What’s true for you is not necessarily true for someone else, so don’t judge anyone. You certainly wouldn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.” Our definition of love seems to revolve around avoiding discomfort. It revolves around self-preservation and finding ways to validate apathy and indifference.
The definition of love that we see modeled by Jesus is the complete opposite. While Jesus has undoubtedly impacted more lives than anyone who walked this earth, He has also received by far the most rejection and resistance. Jesus came preaching things like, “Repent! Love your enemies. Bless those who persecute you. You must lay down your life in order to find it.” I could go on and on about the things He said, but we must also look at the things He did. When He was dying on the cross, Jesus asked God to forgive the people who put Him there. Before Peter even denied Him, Jesus was already encouraging him and praying for Peter to overcome the condemnation and guilt for having done so. Jesus took away every excuse that we can think of to live a life of indifference and self-preservation. He came and set a model of love that was so convicting, so unselfish, and so proactive that it infuriated people to the point of wanting Him dead. The truth of the matter is that His love is still convicting people to that magnitude this very second!
God’s definition of love demands sacrifice. It demands dying to ourselves. It demands truly putting the well being of others before our own, and that includes our enemies. It challenges us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him! Most importantly, God’s definition of love demands that we recognize and experience just how much He loves us. God’s definition of love is only possible when lived out in an intimate relationship with Him that is only possible through the radical, unparalleled, sacrificial love offered to us by Jesus on the cross!
Friends, not only do we not have the right to redefine the word love, but why would we want to? Why would we want to water it down and cheapen it? How could we possibly define it, or live it out, in a way that even compares to the way Jesus did? Whether you have been walking with Him all your life, or you haven’t even met Him personally yet, God is calling every one of us to a deeper revelation of His true love. What is that next step in your life? How is He reshaping your current definition of love to align with His definition? If God is love, then He gets to define love.