1 John 3:16 (NIV) This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us...
John 15:13 (NIV) Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
- LOVE: When the [interests, will, growth, pleasure, safety, glory, etc.] of someone or something else becomes more important than your own [interests, will, growth, pleasure, safety, glory, etc.].
The Process of Love - An Opening Parable
1 Cor 14:1 (NIV) Follow the way of love...Jill is a little girl. She wants the candy that another girl has. She grabs it, she eats it, it is gratifying and she feels good.
In a later episode Jill has some candy of her own and sees another girl without who obviously would like some, and Jill gets a funny feeling and decides to give hers away. The pleasure Jill gets from this transcends the eating of candy, and lasts longer.
Jill grows up and finds she has many and more sophisticated desires, dreams, interests, etc. She pursues these and finds them relatively gratifying, yet somehow lacking in the achievement. For example, she buys herself candy, and the candy is good, and the experience of it is good, yet there is a slight twinge of self-indulgent guilt. Not to exaggerate here, it is not all that bad, and the things she desires / gets may be good in themselves. But the actuality of getting them somehow falls flat. "Success" in life turns out merely to be a grown-up version of the old sand-box grab, several levels of "grabbing" abstraction removed. At its base, it is animal, obvious, selfish--even if the things she gets through such are good.
Then Jill meets Jack and begins to "fall in love". Now she finds that she can do what she has always done for herself for Jack without any self-indulgent guilt at all. In fact her emotions come alive not only in the consuming, but in the doing as well. For example, instead of thinking of herself, she buys Jack candy. The candy is good, it is good to give it, and good to get. The sense of pleasure extends beyond any particular event to fill the whole of life.
As Jill lets the [interests, will, growth, pleasure, safety, glory, etc.] of Jack more and more supplant her own [interests, will, growth, pleasure, safety, glory, etc.] the risk she is taking is that she might not have her own needs met. This is indeed a real vulnerability. But if Jack reciprocates this process in similar measure and pace, then the relationship will grow and mature and be exceedingly pleasant for both. The sky will seem bluer, the senses will become heightened. What Jack buys for Jill is more lovely than anything she has ever bought for herself. What Jack wants becomes a passion for Jill. The more these two abandon themselves to this process the further they get away from their "selves" and the more they get caught up in the mystery of love, and the more satisfyingly and self replenishing love becomes for both of them.
Of course, if something goes amuck, Jill's extension of her self into Jack and his world--with the effect of overspill this has on every aspect of life--will all come crashing down. Only then will the "old way" of the direct sand-box grab appear so stupid, so empty, so animal. "O sola mia" will never be the same again. What before seemed only a slight twinge, now screams out as an ugly pallor. If the world collapses from love to self, the contrast is stark and poignant.
This process is experienced by all at some level and with some object, human or not. Some find great gratification at giving their own interest over to cars, hobbies, work, etc.--whatever it is we truly love. To be one step removed from satisfying our own desires directly, and the extension of our selves into something else, even if not someone else, seems to be what we were made for. Not only is the thing we love good (hopefully), but the process of "pouring ourselves" into something outside ourselves is deeply gratifying in itself.
In this we can perceive an even larger spiritual pattern. Just how has God loved us? What does He mean by love? How then should we love?
Romantic Love As A Type...
Eph 5:25-28,32 (Phi) The husband must give his wife the same sort of love that Christ gave to the Church, when he sacrificed himself for her. Christ gave himself to make her holy.... So men ought to give their wives the love they naturally have for their own bodies. The love a man gives his wife is the extending of his love for himself to enfold her. Nobody ever hated his own body; he feeds it and looks after it. And that is what Christ does for his Body, the Church. The marriage relationship is a great mystery... as a symbol of the marriage of Christ and his Church.
1 John 3:16 (NAS) We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
The Love Of Jesus
John 14:31 (NIV) "The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me."..
John 17:7,10 (NIV) "Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you... All I have is yours, and all you have is mine..."
John 14:23-24 (Phi) Jesus replied, "When a man loves me, he follows my teaching. Then my Father will love him, and he will come to that man and make our home with him. The man who does not really love me will not follow my teaching."
John 13:34-35 (TEB) "A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then all will know that you are my disciples."
1 Jn 4:7-8 (NIV) Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
To Be Like God
Eph 5:1-2 (Phi) So then you should try to become like God, for you are his children and he loves you. Live your lives in love--the same sort of love which Christ gave us and which he perfectly expressed when he gave himself up for us as an offering and a sacrifice well-pleasing to God.
2 Cor 8:9 (Phi) Do you remember the generosity of Jesus Christ, the Lord of us all? He was rich, yet he became poor for your sakes so that his poverty might make you rich.
Rom 15:1,3 (TEB) We who are strong in the faith ought to help the weak to carry their burdens. We should not please ourselves... For Christ did not please himself...
Phil 2:2-7 (NIV) Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who... made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant...
Love And Feelings
Some speak of love as if it can only be detected by the abundance of "positive feelings". Love is not merely an emotion, although it is often accompanied with intense feelings: at times pleasurable and at times painful. Think about it. God's love for us meant intense suffering on His part, as well as intense joy. It is the same for us. Being caught up in the vicarious mystery of love tends to amplify the normal emotions and feelings of life, but these come and go. Love experiences them, but is not dependent on them.John 14:21 (Phi) "Every man who knows my commandments and obeys them is the man who really loves me, and every man who really loves me will himself be loved by the Father, and I too will love him and make myself known to him."
1 Cor 13:4-8 (NIV) Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails...
Genuine love requires discipline and engagement. It is a commitment to the beloved against all cost. Our petty, childish experiences have given us the hint that it is a path to substantial joy. Other joys are ephemeral by comparison. Only real love gives the sustained thing. The more we pour ourselves into others--or better still God--via love, the more we grow and bask in the reward.1 Cor 13:7-8,13 (Phi) Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. Love never fails... In this life we have three lasting qualities--faith hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Phlm 1:9 (TEB) But love compels me to make a request...
Rom 12:9 (Phi) Let us have no imitation Christian love. Let us have a genuine hatred for evil and a real devotion to good.
1 Cor 16:22 (NIV) If anyone does not love the Lord--a curse be on him.
2 Cor 5:14 (Wey) For the love of Christ overmasters us...
Love is not merely a fond sentiment. It is a dedication to the best for the beloved. Among us, this may involve criticism, arguing, confronting, urging, pushing, pulling, etc. as well as praising, encouraging, etc. To not care enough to have the passion to help in whatever way the situation allows is a failure of love--pure and simple. God loves us, and so He extends Himself to save us. He encourages and pushes and rebukes and reasons with us. And likewise we should not fail in any of these respects with others, either in giving or receiving.Pr 3:11-12 (NIV) My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.
God Coursing Through Us
1 Pet 1:8 (Jer) You do not see him, yet you love him; and still without seeing him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe.
1 John 4:12 (Phi) It is true that no human being has ever had a direct vision of God. Yet if we love each other God does actually live within us, and his love grows in us towards perfection.
1 Pet 1:22 (Phi) Now that you have, by obeying the truth, made your souls clean enough for a genuine love of your fellows, see that you do love each other, fervently and from the heart.
John 17:23-26 (NIV) [Jesus] "... I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world... I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."
Learning To Love
Eph 5:2 (NIV) Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Heb 10:24 (NIV) And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.
Eph 3:17-19 (Phi) ...I pray that you, rooted and founded in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and long and deep and high is the love of Christ--and to know for yourselves that love so far above our understanding. So will you be filled through all your being with God himself!
1 Thes 4:9 (RSV) But concerning love of the brethren you have no need to have any one write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.