This is the third lesson in what is now a five-week series about relationships. We are specifically not looking at romantic relationships, but are focusing on general friendships and relationships. We are approaching the series with the question, “What can we learn about relationships from the book of Ephesians?” This week’s lesson, however, jumped out of Ephesians after I realized we had not defined the word “love” and needed to do so.
So far we’ve learned that:
God sees people as either people who:
He loves and who are a part of his family, or who
He loves and who are not a part of his family, but who he wants to be a part of his family.
When we begin to see everyone in our lives as people whom God we begin to see through eyes that give our relationships a godly shape.
Last week we looked at the church and said that before Jesus we naturally identified with others who were like us, and historically people have set up boundaries based on ethnicity, social status, and gender. People were not allowed to cross those boundaries and have relationships with people who are not in their group. However, in the church we don’t see each other based on these divisions. Instead we see one another as children of God in Jesus. This makes all the difference in the world because it calls us to a shared identity that is more important than our individual identities.
This Week’s Lesson
So what is love? I asked our group what words came to mind when they thought of the word love. Answers ranged from loyalty and marriage, to a tingly feeling inside. After filling the white board, they broke into three groups and were given the challenge to define love. Their definitions were:
- An explosion of the heart through God that causes caring feelings and God’s vision is that the feelings should be true.
- Love is something that happens from the heart by God, when 2 people come together by him, which equal happiness or sadness
- Love is to care selflessly; the indescribable feeling caused by the soulful attachment to something other than yourself; love yourself too.
So these are our starting points for the word love, but we need to ask – What does the Bible teach us that love is? There are a lot of places we can look, but we’ll stick to one verse and one chapter.
Read 1 John 3:16. What does this verse tell us true love is?
Turn to 1 Corinthians 13 and compare it to 1 John 3:16. How does 1 Corinthians 13 help us to understand 1 John 3:16?
I want to share 3 myths about love that these passages expose and then offer the 3 responses from scripture that offer a greater picture of love.
Myth # 1
Love is a feeling.
Love is often pictured as a feeling, which would make it something that we have much less control over. So what happens if what we think is the feeling of love disappears after time? We are then free to go looking for love in someone else. So what is love then?
Love is a choice.
1 John 3:16 tells us that love is the choice a person makes to lay down his or her life for someone else. In 1 Corintians, it looks like the setting aside of our agenda to be patient and kind. It is the choice to not be envious of another person’s success and treats others with respect and honor. Love is the choice to forgive others, even if it means we look silly or lose our reputation in the process. If someone says to you “I love you” you should be able to answer the question, “How do they love me?” with real, actual examples of the person doing these things. Likewise when you ask “Do I love this person?” The answer ought not be found in the realm of feeling, but instead in the choices we make to put that person before our self.
Myth # 2
Love is a response to the love someone else.
We often think that we are only able to love another person when they love us too, but these verses don’t set us up to understand love this way. Jesus died on the cross even when we didn’t love him and even when we were sinners and enemies of God.
Love can exist, even when the other person does not love first or in response.
This is how Jesus can tell us to love our enemies. Having a warm fuzzy feeling toward them or being filled with a loving emotion is very difficult if not impossible in these situations. If someone is mean and violent and nasty toward you, you are still able to be forgiving and kind in response.
Love doesn’t always work.
We seem to think that there are situations where love just isn’t the best option, but often times this comes out of a misunderstanding of love and not, in fact, that love wouldn’t work in that situation. Love seeks the best for the other person, and there are times in life where confronting another person with the ways they are wrongly living or even calling the police if a person is doing something illegal is the most loving thing that you can do.
Love always works.
It might not mean you keep yourself safe, in fact it might mean you lose your life. It might not mean you get your way or you feel happy about what happens, but love never fails. It is always God’s will and it is always what God wants his people to choose. Love, the very act of caring for someone else instead of worrying about our selves, will be the very thing that carries on forever into eternity in the presence of God.
So, whom do you need to love better than you have? Think about your family members, think about your friends, and think about your enemies. Take the next 2 minutes to identify 2 people you need to love better, and write down something you will do to love them this week.