What is Love? A Reflection on God’s Definition of Love
I am sitting at a beautiful wooden table in the dining room of a friend’s cottage, secluded in the trees, hidden by endless leaves, winding roads and silence. I can see the sun through the clear glass windows reflecting off the lake down the road and shining through the winter trees as it sets.
I have gone to write, to take time to breath or better said, to catch my breath amongst the busyness of this life. As I sit here praying through the rough spots in my life and the aches deep inside of my heart, I am reminded of a conversation I had earlier today.
I spoke to someone I trust deeply about my marriage. In talking to this person, I described a recent disagreement between my husband and I. The issue we were in disagreement about was fairly minor and was not the reason for this current discussion. The issue was our reaction to that issue and the hurt that followed. After I finished describing the incident, he asked me, “was that love?” Meaning, those actions, those words, were those words and actions of love?
The question took me by surprise, I was a bit defensive, thrown off but I recovered. I answered that it was love or at least I thought it was love and I quickly moved on.
However, my mind and heart did not move on, that question sunk deep.
I brought the question of love before God, in the quiet place where my soul breathes again. The only way I could truly answer if our actions and words in our recent disagreement were done in love was to define what love is in the first place.
We know from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 love is this:
Love is patient
Love is kind
Love does not envy
Love does not boast
Love is not proud
Love is not rude
Love is not self-seeking
Love is not easily angered
Love keeps no record of wrongs
Love does not delight in evil
Love rejoices in the truth
If that is what love is, did I operate out of love when I pointed out the 1001 things my husband has done wrong in the last 3 years? Did I operate out of love when I snapped at him rudely cutting him off mid-sentence? Did I operate out of love when he disagreed with me and I became infuriated?
If I am to believe love can be defined by the word of God in 1 Corinthians 13 then the answer is no.
I did not operate out of love, in fact, there was no love at all. Love was replaced by anger, resentment and past pain.
Stop and think about that for a minute.
If I am not operating out of all of the things above then I am not operating in love. The problem with this is we are talking about my marriage. Marriage is made up of two people who love one another, right? Marriage is the expression of love, the showcase of love.
It is a constantly moving demonstration of love, which is more than a fly by night feeling, a mushy emotion or someone’s trending hashtag.
Love is an action described in detail in 1 Corinthians 13, which we have all heard a thousand times but rarely think about and even more rarely, actually apply it.
I am 36 years old, I have been a believer since I was a child. I have a degree in Biblical Studies and am about to return to school for a Masters in Theology. And, for the first time in my life, I have come to realize I have not been operating in God’s definition of love.
In our society, the love we see demonstrated is made up of emotions, sometimes up sometimes down, it’s made up of sexual desire and lust, it comes and it goes but it is never consistent, never persistent, never lasting.
That is not the definition of love from God’s perspective, if we look at the definition God gives us, this love he talks about is intentional, it is on purpose and it takes work.
To make this more practical, this means if I truly love someone, I need to operate in love as defined by God’s word not just in the good times but also in the hard times, the real times, the times when life hits you smack in the face. I need to hide this word deep in my heart and as a disagreement arises (and it will arise as it does in any marriage), I pray I can pull God’s word from my heart and from that place speak life and not death.
I know what it is to fail at this, I know what it is to have no love, to speak from a place full of dead winter trees with no life. Speaking death does not bring forth life, it can’t happen, it won’t happen. Jesus was alive when he spoke forth to Lazarus and told him to get up. The dead cannot raise the dead, only the living breathing Word of God can do that.
If you want change in your marriage, speak from a place of love. Love defined not as the world would define it but as God defines it.
This isn’t going to be easy, it takes bravery to think of love first before reacting. It takes bravery to think of love in the deep, hurting places. It takes bravery to be purposeful and intentional with love and willing. But, after a failed marriage, I can tell you right now, being brave is what I’m all about.
Sarah Ann is an author, speaker and media personality committed to honesty, vulnerability and authenticity. She has a passion for empowering people who are willing to be honest and walk out life in Christ together. Sarah holds a Bachelors in Biblical Studies and a Masters in Theology and Apologetics, she also owns a clothing company, Ascent516.com and is the creator of SarahAnnSpeaks.com and the Sarah Ann Speaks Podcast. Sarah is featured daily on GEB TV.