// Lynette Hagin
"The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." —Isaiah 58:11 (NIV)
THE WORD LOVE in the English language holds many meanings. We love cars, houses, and vacations. We love food, recreational activities, and our friends. We love our parents, our spouse, and our children. And of course, the most important person we should love is God.
Because we use the word love in so many ways, I am concerned that often we employ it flippantly. When we greet people in church, many times we say, "Love you, brother," when we might have just met that person. We don't recognize the true meaning of the word. Most of us have been guilty of using that phrase this way.
Let's look at several meanings of the word love. It can mean "a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person; warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion." I like this meaning: "unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for the good of another." And finally, it can mean "a person's adoration of God."
Here is how God defines love in First John 3:16–18 (Amplified Classic): "By this we come to know (progressively to recognize, to perceive, to understand) the [essential] love: that He laid down His [own] life for us; and we ought to lay [our] lives down for [those who are our] brothers [in Him]. But if anyone has this world's goods (resources for sustaining life) and sees his brother and fellow believer in need, yet closes his heart of compassion against him, how can the love of God live and remain in him? Little children, let us not love [merely] in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth (in practice and in sincerity)."
So many times we relate love to a feeling. The greatest act of love the world has ever known was Christ's dying for our sins. It involved Jesus praying for the cup of suffering to pass from Him, yet going ahead with it as an act of obedience. His love did not depend upon His feelings. It depended upon His seeking the best interests of others. Love is an action; it is something we do.
I am concerned about marriages in this generation. It seems that many marriage partners are self-centered—each person is seeking the best for himself or herself. In a marriage, you should seek to place your spouse above your personal desires. My husband and I just celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in December. The last 50 years have flown by so quickly.
Someone might ask, "How have you stayed married for so long and remained happy and in love?" When we said our wedding vows, we determined that we were going to love each other in the good times as well as the bad. Through the years, every marriage will experience challenges.
In difficult times it is important to review First Corinthians 13:4–7 (Amplified Classic): "Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God's love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]."
The kind of love described in these verses does not emphasize emotion but attitude and action. Love is unselfish. Love looks out for the best interests of the person loved. In a marriage, words and thoughts have to be followed up with consistent actions. It is one thing to say you love someone and another to show that you do by your deeds.
Imagine where we would be if the Lord Jesus had only talked about the cross but never followed through. Aren't you thankful that He not only said He loved us but followed through with the necessary action! He endured the suffering of the cross that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.
I encourage you to constantly remind yourself of the attributes that love should display. Then exhibit those characteristics toward your family, spouse, and friends. And most of all, place loving God at the very top of your list.