“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” –Matthew 22:37-39 NET Bible
How do you measure love? Is it by the cost of what gifts you receive or the things that someone does for you? As we approach Valentine’s Day, I recall the first line of a poem that I first learned in my high school English class. It reads: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” (How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43), Elizabeth Barrett Browning 1806-1861). Although this epic poem was written approximately 200 years ago, the question and its response are still worth considering. Instead of looking to understand or measure the depth of someone else’s love for you, you should examine your own heart to see how much and how well you love the people in your life. Your measure of love should be based on whether you truly love as you say you do or as you yourself want to be loved.
So, what is true love, and how do you know when you have found it?
Is true love a feeling or an emotion? Many people are looking for that “real love”; and while some may have found it, others are still searching. Yet, true love is not as elusive as it may seem because, while you’ve been hoping or seeking for it, true love has been waiting for you to take the first step.
One of the easiest ways to experience true love is by giving to others out of a pure heart because, in giving, you will receive. Your motives, however, should be to bless others and not to get something in return. So, even if there is no chance of your love being reciprocated by those to whom you give it, you should still do what love requires. And when you show genuine love to others, true love will find you, often when you least expect it. More importantly, you will have God’s approval and the sense of satisfaction that can only come from blessing others.
Yes, there is a place for the warm fuzzy feelings and excitement of romantic love and the emotional connection you may feel toward someone special. However, those are just the “icing on the cake”. True love that lasts for a lifetime is the “cake”, and it is attained by having the right attitudes and practicing certain behaviors.
According to the “love chapter” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8), these are the things that define true love:
- Love suffers long (is patient)
- Love is kind
- Love does not envy
- Love does not parade itself (is not boastful)
- Love is not puffed up (is not proud, arrogant)
- Love does not behave rudely
- Love does not seek its own (unselfish)
- Love is not provoked (not easily angered)
- Love thinks no evil
- Love does not rejoice in iniquity (sin, wrongdoing)
- Love rejoices in the truth
- Love bears all things (puts up with)
- Love believes all things
- Love hopes all things
- Love endures all things
- Love never fails
Wow! This seems like a pretty tall order, doesn’t it? How can anyone possibly live up to this standard? From a human point of view, it seems impossible; but with God’s help, we can all strive to live up to this definition of love.