"Love hurts". "Love...If you let it go, it will come back to you". "Love is meant to be given away". "Love is wasted on youth".
There are a thousand expressions and catchy phrases about love that litter our conscience.
And that is because there is no stronger emotion than love.
Within the ancient Greek language there are 4 main ways in which love is expressed. Yet, in our modern day English we only have one word to express the many different aspects of love. I think we are cheated.
We can walk up to our best friend as say, "I love you". Then we can walk up to our husbands and wives and say, "I love you". Or we can walk up to our children and say, "we love them". And for each of these different relationships we use the same three words but we definitely mean something different.
But do you think we are ever confused about the meaning of love and its execution?
At 16, I told a girl I loved her and I meant it. Now I'm married and I have 3 children. When I tell my wife I love her, does it mean the same thing to me as it did when I was 16?
Or if I tell my kids, I love them and I then let them do as they please without rules do I really love them? Or maybe I tell my kids I love them and I don't let them breathe without my approval first. Does that constitute loving them?
You see how easy it is to be confused on the meaning of love or maybe how love changes as we get older. And do you see how the execution of our love can become so misguided?
Nothing has consumed more of my time, energy, and efforts than trying to express love, understand love, and execute love in my life.
On more than one occasion I have had to change course in my understanding about love, because God was teaching me a new depth and new understanding about love.
The most powerful thing that God continues to teach me comes from Matthew 22:36-40:
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."
To me this is powerful because it is a reminder that my first and primary love is God. I can not EVER begin to understand love outside of my relationship with God. I need to first love God with everything in me before I can even try to love anyone or anything else. Jesus says this is my first directive as it concerns love. Once, I learn what it means to love and be in love with God then and only then can I truly begin to understand how to love anyone or anything else.
This radically changed how I began to love my wife, my kids, my church, and my neighbor.
But Jesus doesn't let us off the hook with just loving Him. He then says the second greatest commandment is to love others.
Jesus is teaching us a very important lesson about true love. True love is a love that is not self focused. True love doesn't seek it's own pleasure but true love seeks what is best for another (within the confines of the God's laws).
This other focus and not a me focus in love, radically changed how I loved others and radically changed who I am as a person.