The Motivations of Real Love
by TJ Sands | 13 February 2019 |
I am coming across the idea more and more that love is fleeting. That love doesn’t last, and it definitely doesn’t last as long as we would like.
But is it true?
Love and Money
In the month of February (especially during the days leading up to the 14th) we talk often about romantic love. Valentine’s Day has become the day to celebrate romantic love here in North America. The stores are littered with red, covered with heart shapes, and overflowing with candy (red, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are the most common). Over half of the U.S. population celebrates Valentine’s Day, to the tune of over $18 billion dollars in 2017.
I find it interesting that the commercialism of the holiday keeps raging on while the thing it is supposed to be celebrating—love—gets lost in the shuffle. The divorce rates of married couples in America are still between 40-50%.
Which begs the question: has the focus on commercialism caused us to lose our understanding of what love is?
The Bible says, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10 NLT). But perhaps this principle has been flipped on its head. Have we connected monetary value with love? Has romantic love been boiled down to how much money one can spend for their lover on one particular day of the year?
Every few weeks or so, I buy my wife some flowers from the store. I find it interesting that when I don’t use self-checkout (I’m all about talking with people, but when I am in the grocery store my goal is to get in and out as fast as is humanly possible), the cashier usually makes a comment about the flowers. “Those are beautiful! Are they for your wife? Are you in the doghouse?” It’s as if men buy flowers for their lovers in order to fix a wrong that has been done. Or, buying something for your lover helps to bolster the fact that you love them.
Money covers a whole multitude of sins.
So do I buy things for my wife when I feel that I’ve been a “naughty boy”? Sometimes, I suppose. Is this a healthy habit of showing love for my wife? Probably not. Is it wrong to buy nice things for our lovers? Of course not.
As with most things in life, motivation matters.
For me, it boils down to this: do I buy things for my wife to prove that I love her, or do I buy things for my wife because I love her? One bases love on what I can buy for her, while the other bases love somewhere else. It is similar to how we view our relationship with God. Do I follow God’s commands to prove that I love Him, or do I follow His commands because I love Him?
That is, is love simply transactional—or is it something more?
Love Is Patient, Love Is Kind…
The Bible gives us a foundation for discussing and thinking about love in 1 Corinthians 13. As Christians, are we willing to hold ourselves to the biblical standards of love? If the answer is yes, how do we do this?
To study the motivations of love, try turning the statements in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 into questions. Is the thought I am having about love coming from a place of patience? Is the action I am taking to show my love coming from a place of truth? Are the words I am about to speak, to show my love, coming from a place of pride? Is my way of showing love boastful, self-seeking, or envious?
Love is not a feeling, nor a transaction, nor a simple word. Love is none of these things, yet all of these things. Love feels amazing, yet it also involves pain. Love is easy, yet it also involves struggle. Love is quick, yet slow. Love is in the big things, but also in the small things. Love can make you feel safe and vulnerable. Love can be exciting and scary. Love can be organized and messy. Love is experienced by the rich and the poor, the old and the young, the happy and the sad.
Because love is complicated.
I am not trying to tell you how to love. I am not trying to give a solid and complete definition of love. (Who am I to take on such a task? and where would I get the time?)
I’m simply saying, again, that love is complicated.
Chocolate can be stuffed into a box. Flowers can be organized in a vase. A card can be enclosed in an envelope. But love cannot be relegated to a single day. Is the commercialized version of love fleeting? Yes. Is commercialized love the only version we have? Thankfully, no.
The better questions to ask? Why am I loving? What is my motivation? What is my desired outcome?
Celebrate Valentine’s Day. Ladies, buy your man a tie. Gentleman, buy your ladies some chocolate. Go out to eat. Buy a card from Walmart. Order some flowers online. Do whatever you feel is right—but don’t let your love be relegated to a single day, a single action, or a single gift.
Love is more complicated than that.
TJ Sands is a pastor in the Oklahoma Conference. He and his wife Sarah live in beautiful Edmond, OK.