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by Grace Bellingham
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart [feeling, mind, midst, center, courage, understanding], with all your soul [breath, vitality, heart, life, mind, appetite, desire, lust, pleasure], and with all your strength [force, forcefulness, might, ability, power, vehemence, speed, diligence, intensity (louder and louder)].” ~ Deut. 6:5; Mark 12:30 (Definitions drawn from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.)
Childish love is immature; it is selfish and self-seeking. Childish love is needy and demanding, it is emotional. Childish love is all about the ‘me,’ for me, all centered on me and full of me. It is full of childish affection. As love matures it becomes broader in its perspective and fuller in its understanding. It makes space for others. As love matures it begins to take in the bigger picture and starts to see its surroundings.
Adult love is stronger and more resilient. It has perspective and great latitude. Adult love is generous and plentiful; it makes space and provision for what others need before its own needs. Adult love is selfless and interested in the ‘others’; it is full of them. Adult love has depth and width; it is spacious and powerful.
God is love, so love is not a feeling, it is God. If you do not know God, you do not know love. To know God is to know love. When God moves in your life, love is moving in your life. When God teaches you something, love is teaching you something. When God corrects you, love is correcting you. When God disciplines you, love is disciplining you. When God gives to you, love is giving to you. When God heals you, love is healing you. When God comforts you, love is comforting you. When God opens doors for you, love is opening doors for you. When God answers you, love is answering you. When God enlarges you, love is enlarging you. When God prospers you, love is prospering you. When God gifts you, love is gifting you. When God uses you, love is using you. When God speaks through you, love is speaking through you.
When we obey God because we love Him, it produces faith and a life of victory. But if we obey Him because we are afraid of Him, it produces unbelief and a life of defeat. A mature, adult relationship with God is based on love—His love for you and your love for Him. It is to ‘love actually.’ When love is the basis for the relationship there is agreement and oneness, there is harmony and wholeness. This love for God is reflected in our love for others. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
When our love for God is mature, adult love, it is no longer about ‘me,’ what I need or what I want or how I should be noticed or treated or understood. It is about others, what they need, what they want. This kind of love notices them, treats them lovingly and generously, understands them and desires to meet their needs. “No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” Others will see God when they see the love we have for each other. Not a hidden, “of course I love you” kind of love, but an outward show of love and kindness, patience and generosity, forgiving and restoring, a making space and covering kind of love.
“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” Emotional love is weak and immature; it is childish. It is flexible and changes with the wind. When things become hard or tremendous difficulties arise, immature love cannot withstand the storm. The truest test for the maturity level of your love is when you are tempted to “hate your brother” and instead you find a way to bless or cover or do whatever it takes to repair the breach. God would not say that you are a liar if you say you love God and hate your brother if this was not a legitimate test for the genuineness of your love for God.
Love is not a feeling; it is not sentiment or affection; love is not emotion, although emotion is often involved. God is love; therefore, love is as powerful as God. Love is creative and longsuffering, love is generous and kind, love overlooks great injury and harm, love makes space for error, love finds a way to bring good out of bad and victory out of defeat. Love holds the worlds in place, and love nourishes the earth. Love found a way to save a hopelessly lost and dying world, full of itself with no thought for the price of sin and rebellion. Love found a way to forgive and bless when it was just to condemn and destroy. Love made a way when there was no way. God found a way to ‘love actually.’
[Actually—used to emphasize that something really is so or really exists, e.g. when it may be hard to believe or when it contrasts with what has already been said.]