When I had just entered into university at the age of 18, like most people my age, I was still grappling with trying to wrap my head around some of the great mysteries of life. Important questions such as how does my faith in Christ apply to my everyday life, will my life make a difference in this big world and the unanswerable one - why was disco so popular in the 70's.
But maybe the most important question that every person struggles to understand is, "What is love?" It is a question that is crucial that we begin to understand because our need for love is central to how we were made. God did not make us to be independent little critters. Instead we were designed to derive our source of life (love, acceptance, worth, belonging, security) from another, specifically from God. So how we understand love will determine where we look for it and therefore if we will find it.
As a very young man I was asking the question because I wanted to know when I loved a girl versus just liking her; don't judge me, remember I was still very young. I don't remember who shared this with me, but the test that was offered to help distinguish between the two was, "Do you like who are when you are around this person?" At the time I thought it was such a great test, because if you felt good about yourself with this person then clearly you must be in love.
It is only in hindsight, along with some grey hair and too many extra pounds, that I see how self-centered that definition of love truly is. With this understanding I make my love for another based on what I get out of the relationship. "If I feel loved by the other person, then I will love them. If I get my needs met by them, then I will offer them something in return, but only so they will continue to love me."
Contrast that with what Jesus says in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one but this, that one lay down his life for his friends." Loving someone is not about what you get out of the relationship, but what you give up for another. And the word translated 'life' in our English Bibles is not referring to our physical life, but to our soul.
So Jesus defines love as laying down your soul for another, repeatedly laying down what you want, what makes you happy, what you think is right for yourself in order that you may do what is in another's best interests. Let that thought sink in for a minute. Loving someone has nothing to do with you receiving, but instead it is about you giving to another.
Jesus did this for us by going to and enduring the cross, and now we are commanded to love in the same way for others (see John 13:34-35 and 1 John 3:23). This is not just given to us as a guideline or suggestion. Nor are we invited to consider doing it when it is convenient. Instead, loving all people in this way becomes our marching orders for each day. In fact, how you love is the true mark of a disciple of Christ - not your doctrine, your church, or the number of verses you have memorised, but how you love others.
If this seems like a daunting, impossible, 'he can't really mean that kind of love' task - then it probably means you understand what Jesus is asking of us. It is an out of this world kind of love.
So where does such infinite and impossible love come from? From the person who is love. Jesus didn't just come to live in us so that you and I would be loved by Him, but so that He could also, on a daily basis, live and love through us.
Jesus described His life as a river of living water flowing out from our innermost being. (see John 7:38) This means that you are not the final destination for His life. Rather, He has made you loved and lovable to such a degree that His life could now continually overflow out of you and into others. The result of being loved in this way is now, in my relationships with others, I can share love rather than demand I receive it from them. This is a much better answer than what I was told when I was younger.
In Christ who is our Life,