What is Real Love?
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."1
A Daily Encounter reader asks, "What is real love? It seems to me that some people who don't claim to be Christians are more loving and non-judgmental than some Christians I know."
Dear Sharon (name changed), unfortunately, just because someone claims to be a Christian doesn't mean that they are a real or an emotionally mature person. It is also true that some non-Christians are more loving and non-judgmental than some Christians because they are more emotionally mature. However, it is important not to determine what love is by human standards but by God's standards.
The best definition of real love is found in the Bible in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13. It probably would be wise for all of us, including myself, to memorize this entire chapter so it becomes a vital part of our inner belief system. This would definitely help us to act in a loving manner.
As God's Word says, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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."2
Thus real love is unconditional; that is, it is love without strings attached. It doesn't have hidden motives for loving someone. When one gives love it is always gratifying if that love is returned, but real love loves regardless of the response of the other. It always has the other's best interest at heart—and this sometimes calls for tough love.
The Apostle Paul also noted in this masterpiece on love, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me."3 In other words, real love is the fruit, perhaps the highest fruit, of both emotional and spiritual maturity. So to grow in love we need to keep growing in both emotional and spiritual maturity.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to keep growing in spiritual and emotional maturity so that my life will always—in all circumstances—reflect the heart of a truly loving person and therein bring glory to your name. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV).
2. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV).
3. 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV).