We have seen what love is not, but let's look at what love is. First, we must remember two important aspects about love; it is a decision, not an emotion and it is an action word. Love is not based on what you feel; it's based on a commitment that you have made. It is also not passive or reactive; love is always proactive.
We all have a sin nature, and sometimes we will express a love that is tainted by that nature. However, we can avoid living like this. How?
It begins with setting a direction, a flavor to our life. 1 Cor. 13 shows us what love would look like. Being that it is proactive, it does not just happen. It requires the power of the Holy Spirit and some lifestyle decisions by us to avoid expressing the “NOTS” of love.
Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Let's unpack the statements here about love and apply them directly to our life.
Learn to think of others first!
One lifestyle change that love will cause is that we will learn to think of others first. It is quite natural for the old man to always look inward and take care of himself. However, love points our focus outward at others… Beginning with God and in extending to those around us. Consider what Paul says in Philippians:
Philip. 2:3-5 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
One of the key problems with our flesh is that we view life from our perspective only. This is another change that happens when we allow love to control our perception of things. We will empathize with those that we do love, in other words we will see from someone else's point of view, not just ours. This is what Christ did as stated in Hebrews:
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
Serve others instead of always being served
How? This is where we begin to understand how much of a decision love is. It is not normal for us to “feel” like serving people… Contrarily, in our flesh we feel the opposite way – we want others to serve us. However, when love is in control we make a willful decision to serve others as Christ did. Again, notice how proactive love must be. Christ spoke of this in Matthew:
Matthew 20:25-28 But Jesus called them to Himself, and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. "It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
Surrender your agenda
One of the marks of real love is when we are willing to surrender our agenda for what God desires. This sometimes can be very difficult because we have limited vision, so we don't see the big picture. Many times this will lead us to a quick fix, yet it may miss the point. God has an agenda for every circumstance; if we love we will yield to his agenda and not push on with our own. Job experience this with his friends:
Job 2:11-13 When Job's three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.
Job's friends started out right, they sat with their friend and wept with him – in other words they sustained him through his pain. Sadly, their love had a time limit, and they quickly moved to the agenda they had, which was to show Job that he'd done something wrong and God was punishing him.
Here are the mistakes they made because of their own agenda (1) a good and innocent person never suffers; (2) those who suffer are being punished for their past sins; and (3) Job, because he was suffering, had done something wrong in God’s eyes.
After it was all said and done and Job met with God, the Lord addressed these friends:
Job 42:7 After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.
The Lord makes it quite clear to these men that their agenda represented God in a wrong light. Our fleshy love will be agenda driven, and if not careful can bring judgment from the Lord. Real love yields to the agenda of the one person that knows all.
Take some time today to examine what kind of love you are expressing. Compare this partial list with the “NOTS” list we made. Where can you see a need for change? What steps do you need to make in your thinking to allow the Spirit room to produce growth? What is your agenda? Have you laid your agenda before the throne of God and asked Him to have His agenda override yours?