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 any one 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? Dear children, let us not love with words and speech but in actions and in truth.
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:16-18)
Therefore, there is no no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. . .. . The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:1-2, 6)
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)
Before I can know how to do a thing, I need to understand what that thing actually is; not what I might think it is.
Before I can love, I have to understand what love really is: where it comes from, what it looks like, and how it can be validated as genuine.
The Apostle John gives us the most succinct definition of “what love is: Jesus Christ.” If I want to know what pure love is, I look at Jesus, both what He said and what He did. He told me what love is, and He showed me what love is. His words of love are fully validated by His actions of love. It follows that if I want to love like Jesus, then I will want to live like Jesus.
Loving like Jesus requires not only going beyond words to actions, but actions in line with the truth. Jesus’ love calls for me to be truthful with myself and with others. Christlike love is not motivated by guilt or a frustrated sense of obligation. It doesn’t spring from a need to be praised or accepted by others. It’s goal is to give something that helps the recipient, not to get something in return.
Truth demands that when I give, I look at what — and who — prompts me. Whose needs am I meeting — theirs or mine? Am I attaching expectations, or leaving the outcome with God? in all cases, Christlike love will be prompted by His Spirit and validated by his Word.
Besides seeing the truth about myself in my love for others, I need to see the truth about them. My love is good when it meets a need in ways that are beneficial. If my “help” enables a pattern of dependence or manipulation, or if it gives a free pass to the consequences of wrong choices, then I’m in particular need of God’s guidance to find a better way to give.
I must also realize that the person I want to love in truth may reject that love. When that happens, my heart may condemn me — with an eager and major assist from Satan. Ever the accuser, he wants me in turmoil, convinced that I can’t do anything or be anyone approved by Jesus. He seems to be on duty especially in the middle of the night, when I’m alone with my thoughts in the dark.
When that happens, I can set my heart at rest because wherever I am, whatever the hour, I am in His presence. I can remind myself that God, who is infinitely greater than my heart, sent Jesus to reach that heart, to teach that heart, to save that heart so he could cherish it and love it for all eternity. My heart has joyfully accepted Him for who He really is — the Son of the living God — and He has accepted me for who I really am — an imperfect child who longs to grow up with Him showing me the way, the truth and the life.
This is how I know what love is: Jesus Christ.
This is how I know what love does: Jesus knows everything about me, and loves me anyway. His Word has a profound impact on what I think and do. He corrects me without condemning me. He guides me. He wants the best for me, and that makes me want my best for Him. He has changed and continues to change this heart of mine.
In the end, knowing what love is simply means knowing who love is: Jesus.
From the bottom of this flawed and grateful heart, I rejoice that God not only can be known, but longs to be known; who teaches me what love is by loving me.