“This year, I want to worry less and love more.”
“My new goal is to love others as I love myself.”
“I just want to love God more.”
Worthy goals, all of them.
But I wonder, what do these people think love is? How will they know if they’ve done it?
If they are like most, these social media friends of mine will grab onto this biblical word, turn it over in their minds, admire it, pet it, and then mold it into a form they and those around them find pleasing before applying.
Love is not the ambiguous, multi-purpose, open-for-interpretation word we think it is. It has a definition.
God is love (1 John 4:8). Anything that matches His will and character is love. Anything that doesn’t isn’t, no matter how much we want it to be.
Furthermore, everything God does is a manifestation of that love, and God does everything to glorify, or draw attention to, Himself because He’s holy and deserves it.
Therefore, love is anything that draws attention to God and earns for Him the recognition and praise He deserves according to His will and character.
All that to say this: If we truly want to love more and better, we will pattern our lives after God’s will and character in an effort to glorify, or turn the attention of others toward, Him.
Want to love God?
“This is love for God: to obey His commands.” 1 John 5:3
Want to love others?
“I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands.” 2 John 1:5-6
You see, only when we obey God’s commands, which always match His will and character, do we direct the attention of others toward God where it belongs. Only then do we earn for Him the glory He deserves. Only then do we help those who don’t know Jesus find the peace with God they desperately need if they don’t want to suffer the consequences of sin and spend eternity separated from Him (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; 5:1). Only then do we inspire those who do know Jesus to keep submitting so they can experience the freedom and joy that are theirs as a child of God.
Let’s take it one step further. What about loving self?
You know that verse we all love to quote, the one about perfect love casting out fear (1 John 4:18)? In context, this verse isn’t really about calming yourself when you have the jitters. It’s about knowing your eternity is secure in the Lord. When a child of God loves God by obeying Him, the Holy Spirit who lives inside them is able to work in and through them, affirming their identity as a child of God and driving out any doubt their eternity is secure in Christ (1 John 4:13; Phil. 2:13; 2 Cor. 1:21-22). They don’t have to be afraid because they know no matter what happens—even if they are physically destroyed—the Enemy cannot touch their soul (Rom. 8:38-39). There is no condemnation for a child of God, just forgiveness and belonging through Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:1-4). This reminder is the very best gift we can give ourselves.
The world is messed up, yes.
We need more love, yes, but we need the real kind, the kind that lasts.
Kind words, acceptance, physical touch, encouragement, financial support, sacrificial gestures, etc.; these are all great! They make us feel better in the moment and God can certainly use them, but unless coupled with a sincere effort to bring broken people to the Great Physician for spiritual healing, our best humanitarian efforts mean nothing—help nothing—in eternity, where the Truth and those who knew it all along will be revealed and it will be too late for anyone to repent and switch sides.
Want to love more? Want to love better?
Obey. God will take it from there.