Love is a strange word.

We use this word to describe everything from our relationship with the Christmas season (“I love Christmas”) to one of our favorite foods (“I love tacos”).  We use it to describe how we feel about our hobbies to our homes.  We use the same word to describe how we feel about our families, friends, spouses, and a good joke.

That’s a strange word—if for no other reason than its sheer flexibility! 

But in its flexibility is actually its weakness: we use it so much, it can become much less meaningful.  Throw that into the Bible’s context and we miss the significance of “love” from the Bible’s point of view.

On this short “week” of Advent—it ends Tuesday and Christmas is here!—we find ourselves reflecting on the Advent theme of love.  We read in 1 John 4:9-12

9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.  

1 John 4:9-12
New International Version

Biblically speaking, love is righteous actions on someone else’s behalf.  It has very little to do with emotions.  Emotions are too unstable.  Biblical love is based on a covenant relationship.  The covenant relationship demands certain behaviors. These behaviors produce emotion.

Our biggest problem with “love” isn’t even our overuse of the word; it’s our expectation for emotions to produce our relationships.  But that’s just the opposite of how God designed it to work.

Instead, we have a God acting in a righteous act in sending His “one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (verse9b).  The stable where Jesus was born was not even the greatest action on the basis of our relationship with Him.  The cross was.

The Apostle John even clarifies our perspectives on love by writing love is “not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sin” (verse 10).  We love because He loved us.  That’s not bad, but it’s self-centered.  We didn’t love God first.  We didn’t make the first move.  He did.

The relentless, unimaginable righteous actions of God on our behalf (“love”) demonstrate how we can love other disciples of Jesus.  While the love of God in our hearts causes us to love everyone, the aging Apostle is concerned first for Christians.

Our righteous actions on each other’s behalf not only validate God’s life in us but serve as the undeniable proof of God’s ability to transform us.

As it’s often said, “When we understand the bad news, we can properly appreciate the good news.”  If we understand what we are without Jesus, we can better appreciate how far God stooped down to love us.  If He can manage that feat, then our love for each other is a piece of cake.

I’m sure there’s someone in your life who’s a little tough to perform righteous actions for.  I suggest you find a way to go out of your way to perform these righteous acts on their behalf.  Not (necessarily) because they deserve it, but because of the change the Lord has made in your heart.  The Lord’s love for you causes you to love like He does.

The countdown to Christmas is nearing zero.  Love like He does.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!

Looking for a spiritually-themed Christmas gift?

Would you consider my book, 31 Days of Spiritual Wisdom, based on a study in Proverbs?  It’s available either in print or on Kindle.