As a little girl, I grew up watching Disney princesses and Hallmark movies. From princes and princesses to kings and queens, I quickly built up the idea that when I reached maturity, I would fall in love by accident and live happily ever after. Little did I realize as a child, however, that love rarely happens like in the movies. And there were many things I wish someone would’ve told me about falling in love before I did.
At twenty-one, I remember crying on my floor because I was single. In fact, I cried so much that a water stain was actually visible on my wood flooring. But in that season, before I was ever in a relationship, I truly believe the Lord was preparing my heart and making room for real love to grow.
When I met my now fiance a mere year later, there were three things I learned about love. While it has now been almost five years since we met, each one is still applicable and worth sharing:
While this might seem like a given, one thing that surprised me about love when I first started dating is that love is an action. 1 Corinthians 13 explains to us that love is patient, kind, and forgiving. But it is easy to read that verse and subtract the application from it. Apart from the application, love seems easy. It is a feel-good feeling that we want more of, butterflies and warm fuzzies included. But as the Passion Translation writes, love requires much more serious work and action than we might want to let on:
“Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up. Love never stops loving. It extends beyond the gift of prophecy, which eventually fades away. It is more enduring than tongues, which will one day fall silent. Love remains long after words of knowledge are forgotten. Our present knowledge and our prophecies are but partial, but when love’s perfection arrives, the partial will fade away” (1 Corinthians 13:4-10).
Despite common misconception, love, by God’s definition, is an action verb, not a passive noun. And if God is Love (noun) (1 John 4:7-21), Love is not only an ever-lasting person but an active pursuit of passion.
Perhaps the greatest demonstration of love was when Love Himself sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins, knowing that we might never love Him back. And we could certainly never repay Him. Real love isn’t concerned with him or herself but with others. And the moment love is isolated to feeling and subtracted from action, it simply isn’t love.
Jesus kept this simple when He said in 1 John 3:18 “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18, NIV). And He does so by leading by His example: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:16-17, NIV).
Jesus never asks us to do something that He Himself hasn’t already done or given us. Why would we expect anything less? Why, then, would we not selflessly give love and lavish it upon others?
2. Love Takes Work
Once the honeymoon phase of infatuation wore off, I quickly realized that love is not only an action but takes a lot of work. And especially once Ben and I started to open up and be real with each other, it was evident that our love was going to take patience, persistence, and lots of resilience.
Many of you may roll your eyes at this if you’ve been dating for any period of time, but you and your significant other are going to have disagreements. No matter how great the other person may be, they are not a carbon copy of you! And chances are, that means you will disagree on something eventually.
When this happens, it is important that we remember what Jesus said about disagreements. To be quick to listen and slow to speak, but to also never go to bed angry:
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (James 1:19-21, NIV).
He also noted that if you were in the middle of giving an offering to God and remembered that you had an offense with someone, it was more important to seek restitution with that person first. The Message paraphrases it this way:
“This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God” (Matthew 5:23-24).
Clearly, Scripture reveals to us that love takes work from both parties. It is not always easy to love. But it is always worth it.
3. Love Is Not for Our Mere Satisfaction
Whether we’d like to admit it or not, the act of loving another human being is not for our mere satisfaction. And as harsh as it might sound, marriage, love, and relationships were not solely created to please our inherently selfish pre-dispositions. Romans 3:23 reminds us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. This means that when we love, our inherent nature is not always geared towards what we can give others but what we ourselves will receive.
One of the best Scriptures in the Bible that talks about this type of love is ultimately when Jesus died for us (Matthew 27:32-56). Nothing about the death of Jesus was pleasant. And while Jesus trusted God to live in eternity, I cannot fathom the pain He endured as the sins of the world were placed upon His frame. He truly loved not for a love He would receive back but a love He was willing to die to give.
In John 21, beginning in verse 15, Jesus illustrates this love with Simon Peter when he asks him, “Do you love me?” three times, changing agape (sacrificial love) to philio (friendship). Even when Jesus asked Peter for sacrificial love, and all he was willing to give was friendship love, Jesus went to Him. He changed His expectations of love. And He loved Him anyway.
“After they had breakfast, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you burn with love for me more than these?” Peter answered, “Yes, Lord! You know that I have great affection for you!” “Then take care of my lambs,” Jesus said. Jesus repeated his question the second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you burn with love for me?” Peter answered, “Yes, my Lord! You know that I have great affection for you!” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. Then Jesus asked him again, “Peter, son of Jonah, do you have great affection for me?” Peter was saddened by being asked the third time and said, “My Lord, you know everything. You know that I burn with love for you!” Jesus replied, “Then feed my lambs” (John 21:15-17, TPT)!
Today, it is my prayer that when you love, you will seek to embody all that Love Himself has already given us. It may be an action, take work, and require us to look beyond ourselves, but in doing so, it will exemplify the Love of Christ it was always meant to represent.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/jacoblund
Amber Ginter is a young adult writer that currently works as an English teacher in Chillicothe, Ohio, and has a passionate desire to impact the world for Jesus through her love for writing, aesthetics, health/fitness, and ministry. Amber seeks to proclaim her love for Christ and the Gospel through her writing, aesthetic worship arts, and volunteer roles. She is enrolled in the YWW Author Conservatory to become a full-time author and is a featured writer for Crosswalk,