“If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end
Love never dies…”
1 Corinthians 13:3-8 (The Message)
I have lived a backward life for the majority of my life. In the fall of 2017 Jesus whispered to me, “Zac, you don’t know how to love. You love in order to receive love.” Those words began a journey into exploring how I have lived my life. It was not enjoyable at all to hear Jesus speak that truth to my spirit, but it was the most loving thing he could have done at the time. This is not a blog about how to love better or how to learn to love better, this is a blog about what love is. I can write the next sentence and end this blog with one statement, because there is really not much else to say other than this, “Love is a choice.” That’s it, nothing else, nothing more, nothing less, that is what love is, period.
You have probably heard this verse many times, and if you are married, it’s very likely this very verse was read at your wedding, it was at mine. We can all agree that Paul’s description of love is true, without question. But is it true for you? Is it, really? I thought it was for me for so long, but my view was outward, meaning I applied this truth to how others should love me. It’s so easy to fall into that trap.
Be honest with yourself, you read Paul’s description of love and said, “Yeah, love is that way, and if my wife would just love me in that way, we would rarely if ever have any problems.” But you see, that is the problem, these attributes, this wisdom is for YOU, period. Otherwise you are living a backward life. I came across this quote the other day, “The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional. The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.”
Brothers, love is on you, it’s up to you, it’s determined by you, it’s chosen by you. There is no other way, well there is, but it’s not love and it is certainly backward. Every single attribute Paul wrote is a choice. Let me show you, if I may take some liberty with scripture to prove a point:
Love chooses to never give up.
Love chooses to care more for others than for self.
Love chooses to not want what it doesn’t have.
Love chooses to not strut,
Chooses to not have a swelled head,
Chooses to not force itself on others,
Chooses to not always be “me first,”
Chooses to not fly off the handle,
Chooses to not keep score of the sins of others,
Chooses to not revel when others grovel,
Chooses to take pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Chooses to put up with anything,
Chooses to trust God always,
Chooses to always looks for the best,
Chooses to never look back,
Chooses to keep going to the end
Love chooses and never dies…” 1 Corinthians 13:3-8 (The Message)
Think about the times in your life you chose to love. Did Jesus not make the same choice for us when he left heaven and went to the cross? “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8 (The Living Bible)
God chose to love us with the most precious gift he could give, himself. If you would let that sink in, let that permeate the depths of your soul, what would your life look like, your marriage, your most important relationships, your church, if you chose to live in this truth?
What is the most precious possession you have in your life? Could you honestly see yourself giving that over to ridicule, torture, and ultimately death, for love? Would you, really? God did! Why? Because he chose to.
That is what love is, a choice. It always has been and it always will be. Will you choose to no longer live a backward life? I am choosing to not live a backward life each day even more than I ever have before. You can too, today is the day. Choose in small ways and they will become greater ways over time. One of the best ways to love is to pray and you can chose to do so with this simple prayer:
Father forgive me for the ways I have chosen to not love. Jesus, I give you permission to reveal to me the ways and times I have chosen to not love and to come into those times and heal my heart. I ask you Holy Spirit to show me when I am not choosing to love and urge me in those times to choose to love. I call forth the Kingdom of God over my life in a new way and I choose not to live my life backward, but instead to look to you Jesus to move me forward in love. I surrender my heart to you and ask you to remove any place in my heart that is calloused or unloving and I invite you to replace those areas of my heart with your love and your capacity to love. I open my heart to you to fill it with your love for my wife, my family, my relationships, and others you put in my life. In the name of Jesus, Amen.