But, I get to tell you what love is.
“Don’t judge me” is the new mantra for today’s free spirit. So, how did we get from being perfect as our heavenly father is perfect to wishing our enemies dead so fast? The most obvious answer is, when you change the meanings of words just to quell the speech of people who would criticize you, what you end up with is license rather than prudence. In other words, the best way to get lost is to ignore the map. There is a principle at work in all our lives which doesn’t have any give. It’s crucial to right thinking, but it’s becoming the most hated and feared, derided and hi-jacked word ever taken out of context from the Bible. That word is love.
Love has a simple definition. Love is acting in the best interest of others. It’s that “interest” part that gets confused, though. So, let’s quickly and succinctly identify what the Bible says is in a person’s best interest.
For what does it profit a man if he gains the world but loses his own soul?
This simple, logical question regularly escapes the reasoning of the best minds. It’s very similar counterpart, “you can’t take it with you,” doesn’t seem to ring many bells lately, either. Our first thought is usually that financial security and social freedom equates to wealth. But, a very crucial component to this logic is missing. That is, flatly, whether the Bible is the truth. Because, if it is, it has a much different definition of wealth, or in other words, things that are worth doing, things so valuable that nothing else even matters.
This is when love comes in to save the day, usually. Love is what tells a person that buying things for their child to play with, rather than just getting down on the floor and playing with them, might not be the best way to treat them. Here we have the principle of love in operation. Training a mind to fulfill the desires of the heart, by itself, fulfills nothing of worth. Fulfillment only comes from loving, and being loved. Remember that little definition now, love is acting in someone’s best interest? It’s the message a soul receives that is either the best one, or worst one for them to hear.
Every action sends one of two messages. One message is that you can provide, for yourself, you can make your own form of happiness. The other is that there’s only one thing that has value, giving. When you store up treasures for yourself that won’t last, happiness fades with them. But when you give something from your actions to show someone they’re of value to you, that action lasts. It endures within them in the form of thankfulness, or it lingers as a question asking them why they aren’t thankful. Either way, love manages to send the message that people have worth.
Now let’s go back to that new definition for love. “Don’t judge me” (and then I’ll know you love me). If you challenge my thinking, or criticize my actions, it means you want me dead, so I have to respond in kind. You have to love me, or else, I get to unjustly criticize, ignore, and deride you. You have to use my definition of love, or I’ll call what you’re saying “hate speech” and I’ll feel justified in erasing you from my life. You have to use my definition of love, to make my own form of happiness, to hate being told the truth. Love is now defined as, “Let me lose my soul to gain the world.”
Is this logically sound, in any way? It is if you take away that one crucial component of true love, God’s word. If getting to choose what makes you happy is really the meaning of love, then of course the only things of worth are to be found in this world, just stuff, objects, people that will give you pleasure. Because that is all you see people for, not worth anything unless they give you something you want. Don’t lie to yourself and say that’s not how you have treated people, either. If love is doing what people want, not what they need, then read no further.
So, what is it that people need? They need to hear that they have so much value that you don’t need anything from them. That they’re so valuable, you would give up trying to buy their approval and instead lay down your very life for them. That you want to give them things of true value, you’re time, your ear, your patience, your criticism. If that sounds like it went off the rails, it didn’t. To tell someone the truth you have to leave lies in the dust behind where you have trampled them with truth. Yes, listening, helping, forgiving, and “not judging” are all forms of love, but they’re all totally meaningless without that one crucial component, truth.
Here’s where it’s criticism that gets a new definition. That is, to die for someone before you let them live in lies. When “don’t judge me” says “you have to love me by staying quiet about whether I’m losing my soul,” love says, no, I’d rather die. I’d rather lose every last stitch of the things I have here on Earth than to let you tell yourself YOU’RE ONLY WORTH WHAT YOU CAN GIVE ME.
Love says the opposite of this lie. Love says, “To me, you’re worth more than life itself.”
Now, sometimes this is as simple as setting aside a certain criticism, a little time, the patience to listen to someone. Only one person ever laid down his life, truth itself, so that we could see our own worth, but many after him follow his example, laying down their stuff, their time, and their impatience for others. There is just one thing that anyone who is truly acting in love can never lay down, and that is, to sacrifice someone else’s soul for their own definition of happiness. Yet, this has become today’s definition of love, and it is nothing less than its diametric opposite. In other words, no one telling you that they love you knows the first thing about love unless they would lay down their life for you. If demanding that I give you what you want is how I have to prove my love for you, then, sorry, but I’ve got some bad news for you.
If I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and I can fathom all the mysteries of knowledge, and have not love, I am only a resounding cymbal or a clanging gong. If I have the gift of prophecy, or if I have absolute faith so as to move any mountain, but have not love, I am nothing. If I sell all I have to give away to the poor, and if I surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I have done nothing.
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 someone’s loss, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, it believes all things, it hopes all things, it endures all things.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will come to and end. Where there are tongues, they will cease. And where there is knowledge, it will be gone. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect is come, the imperfect will pass away.
When I was a child, I acted like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things. Now we see dimly, as a reflection in a mirror, then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part, then we shall know fully, even as we have been fully known.
So now these three remain, faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13