How to Love Well

From a very young age, we each want the people in our world to love us. We do things to get attention or to get approval. “If I do something nice for them, they will love me more.”

The universality of love confirms the central role it plays in life. Everyone wants to love and be loved.

Unfortunately, the weight falls to the “be loved” part of the equation for most people. We are more concerned about feeling loved than we are about giving love.

I wonder what would happen if we truly loved unconditionally - no matter what - expecting nothing in return.

It’s one thing to love someone, but to express that love in a way that the other person receives it - that’s another level.

Gary Chapman is well-known for his book, The Five Love Languages. He proposes the idea that everyone has one main way that we hear “the language of love.” He breaks down the five languages into Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical touch.

We think that we should go beyond those five. We believe that we should each be a “student of our mate.” I should study my spouse all of the time, so that I know how to express love to my spouse in a way that he can recognize it and receive it.

Even if “Acts of Service” is my spouse’s language, I need to know which acts are most important. I may think that I am being loving when I give him a gift, but he doesn’t care about it. He wants me to run some errands for him. Then, he knows that I love him!

Love is not an affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.  C.S. Lewis

Rooted in Love ……
He loved us not because we are lovable, but because He is love. C.S. Lewis

I am incapable of loving unconditionally and without end. That’s right - it’s impossible for me. I can only love as God loves if He lives in me and through me. I do not have the capacity to love like that on my own.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Ephesians 3:17b-18

This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:11

Dissipation of Love ….
That hunk of burning love that existed before marriage often gradually dissipates after marriage.

What happens?
  • I equate real love with that “hunk of burning love”. When the passion diminishes (and it will!), I think that I have lost the love.
  • I think my presence in the marriage shows my love, without doing anything else. Most people need some kind of connection to recognize the love of another. The connection could be touch, words, actions, or attention. 
  • I think that the same things mean love to my spouse that mean love to me. I may want my spouse to do something to show love, but my spouse wants me to give a hug. So, I keep doing things, but my mate doesn’t see the love without the affection.
  • When I don’t see love from my spouse, I quit giving love. My love is predicated on what he does or doesn’t do. I am not really loving unconditionally. I give out of what I receive from the other person, rather than giving from what I receive from God. My spouse isn’t capable of meeting my needs for love - only God can do that! 
  • We don’t intentionally work to strengthen our marriage. Neglect isn’t helpful. We don’t plan fun times together or set aside time to connect everyday. 
  • We allow relationships or activities to take precedent over our marriage. We may let our kids, parents, work, or hobbies to take more of our timed and/or attention.
Love Motives ....
When an action doesn’t come naturally to you, it is a greater expression of love. Gary Chapman

What is my motive for showing love to another person? 

Most of us don’t think about our motives. But usually I want something back from my friend or my spouse.

I may want to feel loved by another; I want that feeling that I am worthy to be loved.

I may want the other person to do something for me.

Or maybe I feel like I have fulfilled my duty by showing love to another.

Most of us want a deep, intimate connection with another person. We think we can achieve that by expressing love to them, so they will love me back, care about me, and connect with me. We confuse love’s actions with connection.

What if my motive was to see joy in that person?

Put the glory of Christ on display by pursuing your joy in the holy joy of your beloved. Love seeks its happiness in the happiness of the beloved.  John Piper