It would be nice if Cupid was real. Besides the adorableness of a flying baby wearing only a diaper, the convenience of one boy shot by an arrow of love in the presence of one girl, pierced by the same arrow, would be nice, right? You’d look at him, he’d look at you, and you’d just know that you’d found love (and the chubby baby would fly off with a smile to make his next match).
But it doesn’t work that way.
There are plenty of imposters that masquerade as love. Lust is one. Convenience might feel like love for a while. Infatuation might feel like love for a spell. So how’s a girl to know when she’s found true love?
Michelle asked us that exact question when we polled our readers asking for their questions about love.
She wrote, “What are some ways to distinguish between shallow love and genuine love? We are all surrounded by a culture that pushes for ‘sugary,’ ‘sexy,’ and ultimately shallow love. I think when Valentine’s Day comes around, I just totally shut off toward the concept of love. However, God is calling me to be loving to others around me all the time. I guess I’m just trying to find the balance in an upside-down world.”
When it comes to love, the Bible doesn’t leave us guessing. Here are three definitions of love from God’s Word.
Love is . . .
First Corinthians 13 is the most famous passage on love in the entire Bible. That’s because it offers an extremely clear definition of love. If you’re wondering what love is (or if you’ve found it), the buck stops here.
Love is patient and kind . . . [it] rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor. 13:4, 6–7).
I cut out a chunk of that passage. That’s because in these verses Paul gives us a definition of love by describing exactly what it is and what it isn’t. We’ll get to the “isn’t” in a minute, but for now let’s put a magnifying glass over what love is.
Love is . . .
- thrilled with the truth.
How do you know if that guy is showing love or lust? How do you know if this relationship is the real deal or an imposter?
Is he patient? Does he tell the truth? Is he kind? Can your relationship hold up under stress, or does it crack any time the weight of the world is put upon you?
Sometimes we understand a word best by exploring its antonyms. That’s why Paul offers these descriptions of what love isn’t.
Love isn’t . . .
Because we are all sinners, we are bound to be irritable, rude, or demanding on occasion. But if a guy demonstrates these qualities regularly, what you have with him cannot be built on love. If your relationship is filled with fighting, jealously, envy, and resentment, it is not love. Turn tail and run.
Who can love?
Did you know that none of us know how to love on our own? Perhaps that’s why we get so confused about what love is and isn’t.
First John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.”
The “he” in this passage is Jesus. The reason we love others is because Jesus loved us. The only way we know what it looks like is by studying His example.
That seems radical, doesn’t it? Love comes from God. We can’t find it without Him.
Galatians 5:22–23 puts it this way: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. We can’t drum it up on our own. We can’t force it to grow in our lives or in our relationships without Him. The other things that Paul lists as evidence of love in 1 Corinthians 13 also come from the Holy Spirit. Patience is from God. Faithfulness is from God. Kindness is from God.
This is why true, romantic love must be between two believers. He is the glue that makes love stick. The adhesive on anything else is bound to wear off.
Love is a one-way sign
One of the reasons our love wires get crossed is because we misunderstand love’s purpose. If the point of love is to make us happy, then we can “love” pepperoni pizza. We can “love” One Direction. We can “love” that boy who we’ve got no business loving.
But John 13:35 spells out what the purpose of love really is:
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Love is the distinguishing mark of a Christian. Ultimately, the purpose of love is to work like a one-way sign pointing toward God.
Ephesians 5 is another famous love passage that puts it this way:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31–32).
What is the purpose of marriage, the ultimate expression of romantic love? It’s to point to Christ.
This is not a switch that gets flipped at the altar. Does your dating relationship point to Christ? Does your crush point to Christ? Do your thoughts and actions toward that guy point to Christ? True love will.
When it comes to true love, we don’t need Cupid’s arrow. We need Christ’s example. Have you seen examples of this kind of love in your world?
PS: Did you know that God is love? We’ll unpack what that means in tomorrow’s blog post.