Ever seen one of those terrible American Idol auditions? The ones where the person singing is so horrible that all the judges can do is laugh? Those are funny.
But then you have the ones where not only is the person auditioning terrible, but they are defiant and adamant that they in fact are good vocalists, and they claim that the judges have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.
It’s amusing because we know the singer can’t sing. Even if you can’t sing, you can tell when you hear someone who can’t sing. And so we all laugh and roll our eyes that some people can be so blinded by their own lack of talent.
We laugh because we know what good singing sounds like, and that certainly is not it.
Love is not so different.
The problem is our society today simply gets love wrong. So we settle for what we think is love, and we miss out on the real thing. It’s like getting accustomed to hearing terrible singers so often that you settle because you don’t know what good music sounds like.
There are three big things we get wrong about love when we aren’t careful.
We misuse love
We use the word love for everything so that it loses its meaning. We say we love our sports team, or our phone, or our social media, or food.
We also say we love our family and friends, or love someone in a romantic way. I’m not saying we can’t use the word love for these things, but we begin to misuse it when we don’t understand the difference between loving chocolate and loving your spouse. We misuse the word love if we say we love everything.
We confuse love
You can think of love as something you give, and lust as something you take.
A lot of times we don’t truly love something or someone, we just want that thing or want to use that person to get something from them. That’s not love. And this doesn’t just apply to a sexual relationship.
Think of the popular high school student who is often a jerk to people he doesn’t deem cool enough. Halfway through the semester this guy realizes he is going to fail his math class, so what does he do? He befriends the best student in the class to see if we can do some of his work for him. He has no interest in befriending this fellow student in real life, he is only using him to take from him.
That isn’t love. But it’s easy for us to confuse love with lust.
We think love is just a feeling
This is huge. If we are honest, this is also the cause of many endings in relationships. We listen to songs on the radio or see relationships in the movies where the characters are caught up in exciting emotion for each other.
When then begin to compare it to our marriage or relationship and think “I don’t always feel like that, something must be wrong.”
And because our culture so often gets love wrong, we don’t see it. We are just like someone who auditions for American Idol and is terrible, all the while exclaiming “You don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13 what Biblical love looks like, and is completely different than how we so often view it.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
1 Cor. 13:4-8
That is a lot different than how we often think of the word love. That’s not the type of love I hear on radio or in movies or online. This type of love is a choice, it takes action, it isn’t easy, it means you have to sacrifice.
But who wouldn’t want to be loved like that?
Following Jesus can be hard, but just like we see in this passage about love, it is better than anything else we could imagine. This is precisely how Jesus loved us, and has called us to do the same.
This is true love.