I love ranch-flavored sunflower seeds.
Seriously. I love those things. I could eat them all day long. Get me a diet coke and a bag or two of seeds and I’m content for the afternoon.
But I also love cookie crisp cereal, eggo waffles, ESPN, my daughter, University of Oregon sports and, of course, my iPhone. I love my wife, music, God, video games, good friends, and coffee.
Love. I say that I love many things. But, what does “love” mean? Obviously I don’t love my wife like I love my iPhone, right? Well, those might be close. Bad example. But, it can’t be healthy.
I think you get what I’m saying. Love for food, for family, for possessions, and for God all employ the same word but mean different things. And if love can be used for so many things, than what does it really mean?
It’s almost as if since love has come to mean so many things that it doesn’t really mean anything. Could that be part of our problem with relationships? Maybe we aren’t really sure what love means anymore.
And so we love our wives like we love our video games. We love our God like we love our sports. And maybe that doesn’t hurt our love of video games and sports, but what if it is too shallow to create good relationships with people and God. What if loving people like we love food is fine for the food but not caloric enough for people?
Well, we are on week three of this series, “Love Connection,” and this last week Austin talked about what love really means. And here are the questions that came from that discussion. Again, I’ll respond to two of them today and two more tomorrow.
Please join us. Read the questions. Follow the response. And feel free to join in the dialogue.
“What is the difference between loving someone and “being in love”?
This is a great question, because I think it gets to the heart of what we talked about on Sunday night.
The problem with both of these terms is they need defined. When someone says, “love” what do you think of? Love of what? Sunflower seeds? iPhone? And if love is hard to define, than what about the phrase, “being in love.” That one seems to have taken on a whole lot of fuzziness. No one is quite sure what it means. In fact, most people might tell you that it can’t really be defined at all. It isn’t something you can describe; you can only feel it.
So, let’s start there because that might be a good clue. Chances are if you can’t define it and can only “feel” it, then it isn’t real love. At least not how I think God defines it. Now because we can love tv-shows and birthday cake in our culture, you can call it whatever you want. But, I don’t think the feeling of “being in love” is necessarily God-like love.
What I think most people mean when they say “being in love” are the overwhelming feelings of attraction that take over our minds. You know, those initial feelings we experience when we meet someone we are attracted to.
And those are, in fact, hard to define. But, we all know the things we feel in those moments of “being in love.” All you want to do is spend every moment together. You blow-off sleep to text late into the night. A song plays on your iPod and you think of your future together. You write notes and letters full of words of undying love. All of a sudden you are a poet! You lie awake day-dreaming of your wedding day. Etc…
Now, none of these things is bad. In fact, they are a huge part in bringing people together in relationships. However, these feelings, as great as they are, aren’t love.
Love is something else entirely. Now, we’ve covered this many times at this point, but love is not simply a feeling that overwhelms you, but a choice that is proven with actions.
Austin mentioned this last Sunday night, and I think he was right on. He said we find a definition of sorts for love in the Bible. 1 John 4:10: “Now this is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and gave himself up for us as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
In essence, John says, “You wanna know what love is? Well, this is love. This is it right here. You know love because God, who is love, loved you. He defined love for you. But his definition can’t be found in a dictionary. Love isn’t made of words and feelings, but of actions. Love is a verb. And he demonstrated this action of love by not claiming his own rights and choosing to come and give up his own life for you, though you didn’t deserve it. In fact, before you even chose to love him.”
Real love is choosing to care about another person more than yourself. Real love is self-sacrificial. It chooses to love the other person even when the feelings of “being in love” are gone for a while. Real love is a commitment of the will to give whatever is necessary, to sacrifice everything for another.
For, example: real love doesn’t pressure other people to do what you want to do. Real love asks what the other person needs not what they want. Real love is honest and authentic and doesn’t need to pretend to be something or someone else. Real love is willing to give up what would be fun for what would be most helpful or beneficial for the other person. Real love is sacrifice.
Now, the feelings of “being in love” may be what help us enter into relationships. The chemistry that we feel in these moments is good, exhilarating and a huge blessing. But, I don’t think we were ever meant to then define them as love. Love moves beyond these feelings to a conscious choice to give your whole life to this person regardless of how long those feelings last.
This idea of love, then, obviously moves beyond just romantic relationships. Should you love your family, your friends and even God with this type of love? Yeah, I think so. But, certainly any serious romantic relationship should be built on it.
Which moves us to the next question…
How do you know when you truly love someone?
Well, this is a great question, but I’m a little hesitant to respond with too much because we will be going into this one a lot deeper this next week.
However, at least one thing can be said: because love is a choice, it isn’t as difficult to know when you really love someone as you might imagine.
Think of it this way. How do you know when you are really going down a water-slide at Wildwaves? Well, I don’t know about you, but I know I’m going down the slide when I choose to do it and push off and head on down. In other words, I know my decision pretty quick. Either I’m yelling and screaming down a winding tube full of raging water or I’m not. (I just wonder how many kids have peed in the pool at the bottom!).
Love is similar. When you choose to start caring about someone more than yourself, than you have engaged in love.
Now, I know that is a little bit simplistic, and we’ll go into greater detail this next week. (Look at you and your question being ahead of the curve!) But, I think a lot of the difficulty we have with knowing whether or not we are “really in love” is based on our faulty assumption at the beginning that love is this magical “feeling” that we “fall” into rather than a “choice” that we make.
I mean, we make choices all day long and don’t question it. I don’t start eating my subway sandwich and think, “How do I know that I’m really eating lunch?” (Some philosphers might, Rene Descartes wanted to know how to know he really existed!) I know I’m eating lunch because I’ve decided it is noon and I’m hungry and that I’m going to eat now (which actually sounds like a good idea, cause all this food talk is making me hungry).
Do you get what I’m saying? I know there is a bit more to it than just this. Knowing when we have gone from just the fun feelings of “being in love” to real self-sacrificial God-like love may require the tests of time, security, knowledge, focus and a whole bunch of other stuff that we will get into this next week.
But, if love is really a choice, then at some point I can be sure that I have in fact made this choice. Now, I could choose at some other point to go back on this choice and make a new choice. But, that wouldn’t be very loving, would it? ☺
Hope this partially answers your questions, and hang-in there, hopefully next week will be more helpful.