I met my college buddy after many years and we had the opportunity to retrospect our glorious past. Our reunion unwrapped lot of sweet memories and we went on and on. Our lovely conversation turned heavy, when he told about one classmate, who married his soulmate four years ago. The couple had a vibrant honeymoon time and had kids. The pictures they posted on the Facebook depicted deep intimacy and warmth of the family. But sadly they had split. On hearing this tragic news, I was totally disturbed that such a thing happened to my friend.
I was pondering over this incident and asked myself – what could be the reason for the failure? This break-up is unthinkable and made me ask myself what could make a relationship strong and last a life time. While I was praying about it, the Lord opened my eyes to see this verse from the Bible – 1 Cor. 13:8 ‘Love Never Fails‘. True love binds a relationship forever and it will never fail. Love that fails cannot be termed ‘love’.
A number of songs have been composed, books have been penned, and movies galore to promote love. But, a plethora of broken relationships today proves that we haven’t truly understood love. I think we should get to the roots and redefine our understanding of love as our precious relationships are at stake.
In my research, I found that the Bible paints a unique picture of love, which is way different from how we portray. Biblical pattern of love has been a blessing to my marriage. It is worth delving on biblical love.
Now, my first question is, how does Bible define LOVE? God said in the Bible, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength – Deuteronomy 6:5” Here, we have three terms to describe love – Heart, Soul and Strength. When the Bible uses the word Heart, it is not talking about the physical heart. Rather, it is used in a figurative sense. The heart (lebeb) refers to our “inner man, mind or will”. God wants us to love by making a mindful and willful choice. When the cricketing Master Sachin Tendulkar was asked about his secret of success in the game, he said, “Cricket is first in my heart.” Sachin made a willful mindful choice in his heart to play the game.
This choice is followed by emotions, affections and feeling of the Soul (Ne-pesh). I get super excited to meet my wife and kid after office hours. When they fall sick, I feel the pain and can’t even enjoy my food. I get mesmerized watching my lovely wife and the pranks of my sweet little son. True love is mindful and willful choice to love a person with emotions and affections.
Our emotions keep fluctuating. Sometimes, we get upset with one another for selfish reasons. We get mad because we don’t like their behavior. Nevertheless, our relationship remains firm, if our love is rooted in the choice of our heart and not just on our emotions.
Now, the last term is strength (meod). It refers to effort or action. 1 John 3:18 says, ‘Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.’ Love in DEED. It is not limited to feeling or emotion but it is an action. My Love for my wife is evident through my actions.
This kind of Love is first demonstrated by God to man. Apostle John says in 1 John 4:8 that ‘God is Love’. It means God’s inherent nature is love. “God demonstrates His love towards us that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” Rom 5:8
This Love is based on His choice and not based on our nature. John 3:16, God so loved the world (us). Though we weren’t very lovable, He still loved us. Isaiah 1:4-8 demonstrates our wicked nature. Our nature is depicted as leprosy. Out thoughts intents and deeds are awful and disdainful. We thoughts, attitude and actions are grotesque from head to toe. Imagine walking through a colony of lepers. It is disgusting, isn’t it? That’s how God felt when He walked in our midst. Yet, He loved us. We deserve eternal hell as penalty for our wicked life. But, He punished His only beloved Son Jesus Christ in our place to save us from punishment. He did it joyfully and sacrificially Is. 53:10. So, love can be defined as an unchanging choice to affectionately sacrifice for the benefit of the other person irrespective of his/her nature.
Our love is very shallow and superficial. When we marry, we expect a lot from our partner. When we find that our partner is not up to our expectation we get dissatisfied, and our love starts fading away. Our love says, ‘what did you do for my pleasure?’ God’s love says, ‘what did I do for your happiness and benefit?’ Our Love is selfish and His Love is sacrificial. Our Love is expecting, but God’s love is accomplishing. Our Love is taking, but God’s love is giving. God’s love defeats selfishness, destroys greed, and dumps pride. God says, I love you with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3). His love is unfailing and unwavering.
Secondly, the question comes, how is it possible for us to show such a high standard of love?
Jesus said, ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’ It seems impossible humanly to make an unchanging choice to sacrificially love irrespective of the nature of the person. Yeah that’s true, we can’t because our heart is desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). This kind of love is totally foreign to a natural man (1 Cor. 2:14). Something supernatural should happen to us in order to love that way. Jesus promised to make us a new creation, transform our heart and enable us to love as He loves (2 Cor. 5:17; Ezek. 36:26-27).
In 1 Peter 1:22-23, Peter gives an insight on this. He first gives a command, “Love one another” and then he gives a reason “For you have been born again“. Now what does that mean? New Birth is a supernatural act of God where He, by His Great Mercy, does a radical surgery for the heart, removing the sinful nature and replacing with His nature. This happens when we humbly respond to the gospel call of Jesus Christ and trust Him as Lord and Savior. In 2 Peter 1:4, Peter again says, “We are partakers of divine nature.” This new birth enables us to Love others like Jesus. Without trusting Jesus Christ, one can never show love.
Thirdly, we should ask, what are the actions that describe Love? In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, we see the spectrum of Love. We see 15 features of love in the text and we shall delve on two of them.
Firstly, Love is patient. It means to never get angry even when your partner troubles you. My theology professor who does pre-marital counselling said, “In a marriage, two sinners come together, and the couple will sin against each other.” We pretend to be the best during honeymoon, but our real nature surfaces very soon we can’t pretend very long. Moreover, we are naturally unforgiving and prideful. Jesus, when He was humiliated and beaten, when they spat on him and nailed him to the cross, He prayed, Father forgive them. He is our model for patience and He enables us to be patient and forgiving as we trust Him.
Secondly, Love is kind. It means doing good for someone who troubles you. It is doing good for the undeserved unconditionally. In Genesis, we see God showing kindness to the cruel brothers of Joseph, by feeding them in famine. God enables us to love that way. This is how we ought to love.
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