Love has become nothing more than a cute word in our day and age. The word is so misused that it has lost its meaning and power to affect us. Pithy quotes about love I saw hanging in homes during our journey were a reminder of the hypocritical uselessness of the concept of love the world has adopted. Love has to go deeper than the saccharine quotes that are bandied about. This is sad to see because love, genuine love, the sacrificial love that costs us everything, is more powerful than all the hate the world can aspire to.
Crying out for genuine love
When Wanda and I had our spiritual renewal in the late 90s, we both hungered for Jesus. A desperate yearning rose in my heart that turned into a prayer that God answered. I grew up in a loveless home and spent my childhood and youth alone. With no friends, loneliness was my faithful companion. When God stirred my heart again, I cried out to know what love was. There was a song by the band Foreigner that became my prayer. “I want to know what love is. I want you to show me.”
I was crying out to know what love was, who love was. My misspent youth did not allow me to know love nor could I show love to others. Like all people, God needed to train me in genuine love if I was to be His. The only way to learn genuine love was to submit to His leading and let Him show me. Although I could not love, I could obey. That was enough for God to work with. It is also the first lesson of genuine love I ever learned. “Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way for it is not self-seeking;” 1 Cor. 13:5
Obedience to His will is the first step I learned to do in the dance of love. If I was to learn what genuine love is, I had to obey the One who is love.
The lessons of geninue love
The next lesson I had to learn was to deal with my past. Since I learned to drink harm from others God had to train me how to drink nurture from Him. This was a tough lesson and took many years. Over time, God led me through a deep healing process over my past, setting me free.
When I learned to let go, forgive others and was forgiven, I was learning how to genuinely love. Despite what others had said and done, I was to bring everything to Jesus’ cross. There is no act of ‘self’ done by me, or against me, that is greater than His sacrifice. Nothing. When God released me from my past, there was no root satan could pull on to pull me away from Jesus. I am no longer in pain in those areas of my life, and I do not react as I once did. “Love is not touchy or fretful or resentful; ” 1 Cor. 13:5.
Jesus’ example of genuine love when He was on earth and His constant love towards me keeps teaching me how to genuinely love.
There is no love in ‘self’
I am not genuine love; He is. I do not have genuine love in me, I can only accept His real love and reflect His love to others. It is only in letting Him destroy the ‘self’ in me can He create an ever clearer reflection of Himself through me. This requires a continual surrender of my ‘self’ nature to Him.
Here I learned another basic of genuine love, “Love is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. Love is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); ” I Cor. 13:4-5. As Jesus destroys my pride in ‘self’ He sets me free to love. My identity is to be in Him alone and not in anything I can ‘do’ for Him. Pride and love are mutually exclusive.
The journey of genuine love
We faced a stark reality and had to decide if we would give up everything to follow Jesus or not.
It is in these moments of intense spiritual battle where we gain a glorious victory by letting go of the temporal to receive the eternal. After we gave up all, Jesus rewarded us with another lesson in love. “Love never is envious nor boils over in jealousy,” I Cor. 13:4. In letting go of stuff, we now can receive more of Him. The pull of the things of earth has disintegrated. This is a revelation of freedom. To know we do not have to worry over things as He provides everything we need.
Love in pain
As we journeyed in homelessness, we faced verbal abuse. These words cut into us deep. Jesus, however, was leading and we looked to Him to heal the wounds others inflicted. This was a choice of either taking pain to Him and being set free, or holding the pain and becoming bitter.
We met many bitter people who thought evil of us. Our desire was not to be like them. We decided as a family to take our pain to the One who took our pain on His cross. By this act we learned another great lesson of genuine love. “Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person,” 1 Cor. 13:7. We either have to forgive and love those who hate us or be consumed by hatred for them.
We learned to reflect Jesus’ genuine love for others, even when they tore us to shreds with their words.
This did not mean we just took the blows smiling, we did not. Sometimes we stood against the vicious attack and stopped them, but did so carefully. “Love is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly.” 1 Cor. 13:5. Rarely, a person would see what they were doing and repent. At these times we celebrated this person was sensitive enough to yield to God’s Spirit. “Love does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.” 1 Cor. 13:6.
There was one last lesson of genuine love we learned as we walked through hardship, struggle and homelessness. This was the greatest lesson and the hardest to learn. Paul mentions it no less than 5 times in 1 Corinthians 13. The one lesson that only those who give up all and follow Jesus truly learn is the lesson of patient enduring love.
“Love endures long and is patient and kind; Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, Love’s hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and Love endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].” 1 Cor. 13:4,7-8.
This genuine love of Jesus stood with us during our whole wilderness time. In standing with Him, we learn to endure through every hardship and not quit. This love goes the distance when you are hungry, tired, cold, wet, alone and miserable. Jesus’ love holds us tight when all of hell is unleashed against us. The genuine love of the Father keeps us safe during the dark, stormy nights.
Jesus’ love endures long and never fails so we did not quit following Him.
1 Corinthians 13
I have used Paul’s description of genuine love in 1 Corinthians 13 as a backdrop to describe a little about what we learned of genuine love. Paul’s words have been our plumb line for understanding real love for a very long time. His admonition is much needed today. There is a warning, however, for those who read our story and think they could repeat such a journey without Jesus’ leading.
In 1 Cor. 13:1-3 Paul states, “If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody). Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing.”
No enterprise, regardless of how lofty the intent, will succeed if there is no love of God in it. Genuine love is the beginning and the end. Without love there is nothing.
The deep love of Jesus
This genuine love I write about here is not the love of the pithy quote or off-hand comment, no, it is the deep, practical, sacrificial love that gives up all for Jesus. This is the genuine love Jesus showed us on the cross when He endured all for us and did not quit. His abiding presence with us is His love. He is the great Son to our reflective moon. We bring Him great joy when we are so aligned to His will that we accurately reflect His real love to others on this earth. To gain that goal, you must allow Him to mold and shape you, to remove the dross, the ‘self’ nature in you, so you are pure before Him. Only then will you properly reflect His genuine love to others.
Homer and Wanda