The REAL Definition of Love

Filed under Relationships Your Heart on Aug 29 12 by

Defining Love

We’ve all heard the clichés:

“Follow your heart.”
“You just can’t help who you fall in love with.”
“I’ve never felt this way before.”
“Could he be the one?”

How would you define love?

Society has come to define love as an intense, uncontrollable feeling. Romantic love is something that we spend our lives chasing after and something that society tells us that we have absolutely no control over. You just have to wait, be patient, and make yourself “available” until the right “one” comes along and “completes you.”

From reality TV shows like the Bachelorette to the “chick-flicks” we all adore, we are bombarded from every direction with our culture’s definition of love. But what if— just what if—they’re wrong? What if the definition of love based upon the truth of God’s word is way different than we could ever imagine? What if it’s so different that it would change how we view dating and marriage altogether?

The truth is that there is an enormous divide (I’m talking Grand Canyon size divide!) between our society’s definition of love and God’s.

The way that pastor Voddie Bauchaum has put into words the following biblical definition of love has completely changed me. I am grateful beyond words that God allowed me to hear these truths many years ago, before marriage, and that He used them to change my heart, my desires, my expectations, and my dreams about love:

“Love is an act of the will, accompanied by emotion, that leads to action on behalf of its object.”

This definition flies in the face of what our culture tells us about romantic love. It also points us to our Savior, Jesus Christ, as the ultimate representation of these truths.

An Act of the Will

First, love is an “act of the will.” Love is a CHOICE. You do choose. You do make decisions. Jesus is our model for true love. He chose to leave heaven and become a man. He chose to love us and that love lead to His death and crucifixion. Jesus tells us in Matthew 26:53 that He could have called down more than “twelve legions of angels”, but He chose not to so that the scriptures may be fulfilled and His love could be evidenced in His sacrifice.

This is what you do when you decide to enter into a romantic relationship, date, and enter into marriage. You make a choice to commit and to love. Couples who last understand that they have made a choice and that they have vowed to stay committed to their choice, even when it gets tough.

Accompanied by Emotion

Second, it is “accompanied by emotion.” Voddie Bauchaum states that love is neither VOID of emotion and nor is it LEAD by emotion. Jesus loved us despite his emotions which we see clearly in the garden of Gethsemane on the eve of his crucifixion. We see him pleading for this not to be the only way and we see his feelings so intense that they are manifested in drops of blood! (Matthew 26:36-46) Yet, he rose to the calling despite his feelings because of his great love for us.

Our emotions are fickle. I don’t know about you, but if I wrote down every emotion I experienced in one day, it would probably fill the page. We also have this notion that we can’t control our “feelings” in romantic relationships. This is what leads to the myth of being able to “fall in and out of love.” If love is simply led by emotion, then what happens in five years when my husband makes a decision I disagree with and all of the sudden I don’t “feel” very loving anymore? And then those patterns will continue and I may begin to think, “I must have fallen out of love.”

Romantic love is a wonderful feeling. “Butterflies” in the beginning of a relationship are such a cool gift from our Father. I remember the first time that my husband held my hand—oh man, I thought I was going to melt into a pool of goop right there in the Panara parking lot! But now it feels different when he holds my hand. It is comforting and stable; it makes me feel secure. And sometimes, to be honest, I don’t even think about it when Brandon holds my hand anymore. Thank goodness it is not a requirement to feel like you are going to melt into a pile of goop your entire life in order to have a lasting and loving marriage!

Leads to Action

Lastly, love “leads to action on behalf of its object.” Jesus followed through. He committed. He sacrificed. He demonstrated. Biblical love will always lead to these things. If biblical love is present in a relationship, these things will be manifested and evident. Ladies, this means that if a man is claiming that he loves you, you should be able to see that in his behavior. He should pursue you and he should treat you like you are a prize to be fought for. He should honor you and respect you (especially physically).

I am not implying that ladies are to be simple bystanders in the process; however, for the sake of this post I feel like you should know that he should have to work for your heart. This may mean that he pays attention to the kind of food you like and makes an effort to take you to your favorite restaurant, or it may mean that he is available to listen when you are having a rough day. This may be manifested one day in him asking for your hand in marriage. Whatever the case, true biblical love will spur us toward action as opposed to complacency in relationships.

My prayer is that we can all grab ahold of these truths for dear life because in our culture, if we aren’t clinging to it tightly and intentionally, it will begin to slip away from us. This love is the greatest and grandest thing we will ever experience, and it must first be experienced through our personal relationships with Christ. He must be our ultimate love before we can ever hope to experience it in a romantic relationship.

The REAL Definition of Love

View all posts by

Shannon Tyson
Shannon is a relationships blogger for The You Are Project, discussing topics surrounding the issues of dating and marriage. Through spending many years working in ministry geared toward young girls and women and through the path the Lord has led her down personally, she has developed a passion to encourage women to date and pursue marriage the way that God intended. Follow her thoughts here monthly!