“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” I John 4:11
We’re going to start this devotion a little differently by putting the discussion question on the front end. Spend a few moments together sharing your thoughts on this simple question:
How do you define the word “love”?
Let everyone share for a few minutes before reading the rest of the devotion.
It’s fascinating to consider all the different ways the word “love” is used today. It can be thought of primarily as a strong feeling that can appear suddenly, like, “It was love at first sight.” It can also disappear just as suddenly for unexplained reasons, “We just fell out of love.” It can mean unconditional acceptance of someone, “ Everybody just needs to love others more and stop judging people for the way they live.” It can also mean, “I really like something but I’m not committed to it.” Like, “I love pizza.”
These are some modern, popular uses of the word, but what descriptions would a biblical definition include? It’s a complicated question because true love can’t be reduced to any one single description; it has a depth and variety that makes it of great value, like a multifaceted diamond.
In this short devotion, we’re going to focus on just two aspects of a biblical definition of love.
The first is sacrifice. At the heart of all genuine love is sacrifice. Consider what Jesus said to the disciples: “Greater love has no man than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). In Ephesians 5, the model for how a husband is to love his wife is Jesus’s example of sacrifice: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v.25). If love doesn’t cost you something, is it really love? Consider all the ways a parent gives up their own desires on behalf of their child, skipping sleep, buying things like diapers and pureed sweet potatoes instead of sports cars. Love is sacrifice.
The other word to highlight is the word action. Love involves action. It’s not enough just to avoid doing harm to those we say we love. One must also actively seek to do good. Jesus was critical of the priest and the Levite who passed by the half-dead man on the side of the road. They did him no harm, yet they also offered no help (see Luke 10:30-37).
You may have heard it said that “Every world religion has a ‘Golden Rule.’” But there’s a big difference between the various versions of the Golden Rule. Most say something like this, “Do not do to others what you would not want done to you.” This means avoid doing harm. You’re good as long as you don’t hurt anyone. But is that enough? Would Jesus still be spoken of today if he had merely lived a life full of avoiding harm? “Wow, what a guy, he was so great at… nothing.”
In contrast, the “ Golden Rule” as it appears in the New Testament is active. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” ( Matthew 7:12). Love requires action, going out of your way to do the very thing for others that you dream and pray others would do for you.
- What are the two words used to describe love in this devotion?
- What is one thing you wish others would do for you? How can you take a proactive step to do that for someone else this week?
God, thank you for building into us the desire to be loved. We all want to be loved. Help us to be proactive and think of ways to actively love others. Help us to embrace sacrifice as a key part of love, just as you modeled love for us.