What love is not
With Valentine's Day approaching, I've been thinking about love. (And perhaps chocolate and flowers, but that's another subject.) I think when we are young, we see love as revolving around us. Do we feel loved? Are people loving toward us? That can take many forms--as is seen in the different love languages--but when we are focused on people loving us as opposed to us loving them, we often link love with conditions. Are things going the way we want them to go? Are people treating us the way we believe we deserve?
But people often disappoint us, don't they? Maybe we don't like the gift they gave us or they don't do the things we ask of them. Maybe they hold us at a distance or perhaps we just aren't that close to anyone because getting close means taking the risk of getting hurt. So we would rather pour our energies into the things that please us rather than risk love.
Because deep down we know that love isn't just about being loved. It's about loving in return. And that can get messy. People are messy. They have bad days and they aren't always nice and they can say hurtful things. People can bring us joy and despair in the same day if we let them! A lot of it has to do with our response to how they act or don't act.
The New Testament has a lot to say about love. Most of us go to the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 for a good definition, but love is written on nearly every page of the Bible, in every story. It is why Jesus came and did what He did for us. (That's perfect love, which we'll get to in a few days.)
For today, I want to explore what love isn't.
1 Corinthians 13 gives us these negatives:
Love is...never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice...
The list poses quite a challenge, does it not? We can all give examples of times we were jealous or envious of someone who did something better, had more than we had--be it money or popularity or beauty.
But love isn't jealous or haughty or selfish or rude. It does not demand it's own way. Just this week my poor husband had to deal with my "irritable or touchy" side.
Grudges are also so easy to hold without realizing it. Anger turned inward turns to bitterness which feeds grudges. That's why the Bible says not to go to bed angry and give the devil a foothold. (The enemy loves bitterness because it eats away at us on the inside and makes us miserable.)
I have to admit, I fail at this list way too often. But I act this way when I focus on "me". When I think that love is about me. Do they love me? If they loved me, why don't they...(fill in the blank.) Instead, I should be thinking about them. Maybe they didn't do this because they are going through something I can't see. Maybe I should be showing them love by "hardly even noticing when others do it wrong." (Or don't do it the way I think they should.)
Love isn't these things. The negative side of love is selfishness. It's narcissistic. It's controlling. It's demanding. It's not the way God intended us to be. This goes for love of any kind - marital, parental, friendships...whoever God has called on us to love. Even our enemies.
So if this is what love isn't, then what is love?
More on that tomorrow.