“This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.” 1John 4:10
Last week one of the ladies at work brought in a “Love Is…” comic. Have you ever seen this comic strip? It usually features just two characters, a male and female couple. The caption always begins with, “Love is…”, and then attempts to complete the sentence. For example, it might say something humorous, such as, “Love is…not asking her how much her new dress cost.” Or it might be something sweet. “Love is…hurrying home – knowing he’ll be there.” Or it might be something thought provoking. “Love is...the reason we’re here on earth.”
This week, as we celebrate a holiday centered around love, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we explain love to our children. Love is not easily summed up and defined. Our society likes to equate love with warm-fuzzy feelings and physical attraction. Television and movies either turn love into a “swept-off-our- feet” experience or a casual act focused on personal gratification. As my teenagers begin to navigate male/female relationships, I want them to understand that love is something much deeper. Love involves respect and commitment and selflessness.
When talking about love with my younger children, I struggle to put something so broad and abstract into simple terms. The best way I know how to make it applicable in their lives is to explain that love is how Jesus would like us to treat each other. However, these words children typically react according to how they are feeling at the time.
While genuine concern, empathy, and romantic attraction are associated with love, the truth is that love is not a feeling, but an action. “Loving” isn’t a lesson that can be taught on a special holiday or in a weekly thematic unit. We have to repeatedly teach children about love, sometimes several times a day. I know that the best way to teach love is to model it. This is where I fall short. If I take an honest look at myself lately, I know that I am tired, stressed, and restless with Spring Fever. I certainly don’t feel very loving or lovable, and my attitude sometimes reflects the way I feel through ambivalence and lack of patience. I don’t love my neighbor as myself, and loving my enemies seems impossible. In my sinfulness, I react much like an impulsive child. I fail to fulfill my calling as a mother and a teacher.
Thankfully, I can point to God’s word to perfectly define love when I can’t. Not only does scripture give us beautiful descriptions of love, but we also find the perfect example of love in action. Jesus Christ loved us to the point of death. 1 John 4:10 says, “This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.” I pray that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we all can begin to comprehend and trust in this limitless love and reflect it in our earthly relationships.