This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
In life I’ve learned tough lessons about love – more specifically, love for the unlovable. Loving my husband, my children, and friends who love me back is an easy task. It’s a natural response. I have learned that true love – the love that comes from the Lord - is a wonderful, marvelous thing that overcomes a multitude of wrongs. I have also learned that when we demonstrate love the way Jesus wants us to, it usually doesn’t look or feel the way we want it to.
Here are some hard lessons I’ve learned about true love:
True love may not be reciprocated. We can love someone with all our hearts and never feel love in return. But is it true love if we expect something in return?
True love may appear as naivety. When we show love despite the circumstances, we may feel used, deceived, or naive. But is it true love if we withhold grace and mercy in the most desperate of times?
True love may hurt. When we open our hearts to love someone, the end result may not be happily ever after. But is it true love if we are seeking personal happiness?
True love may feel vulnerable. To love someone means we have to put down our guard, be authentic to build a relationship, and lay aside time and energy that we will never get back. But is it true love if we aren’t willing to lay down our lives?
Demonstrating true love can be a great joy when we look to the Giver of Love, Jesus Christ, and trust in His goodness. Here are some Truths about true love that offer hope and joy:
We can offer true love because it was first offered to us when we didn’t deserve it. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5).
True love can endure hardship and distress because we have been given eternal hope and joy through salvation in Christ. I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul (Psalm 31:7).
There is a great reward for showing true love even to our enemies. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them (Luke 6:32).
We do not have to rely on our own strength and determination to demonstrate true love. God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:5).
Around the same time that I was reflecting on the hardships of true love, my husband read to me an excerpt from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest:
Are you ready to be not so much as a drop in a bucket – to be so hopelessly insignificant that you are never thought of again in connection with the life you served? Are you willing to spend and be spent; not seeking to be ministered unto, but to minister?