For years, I missed the boat when it came to love. And, no, I’m not talking about my dating life as a younger guy! I’m talking about the fact that I thought love was a personality trait. Some people had it, some people didn’t, and there wasn’t much you could do about it. It was like being an introvert or an extrovert. Sure, you could learn some techniques to be a little more loving, but it wasn’t like you were going to become a whole new person.
Maybe I struggled because our culture has such a cheap view of love. We reduce it to nothing more than butterflies in our stomachs, warm fuzzies and something, if I’m being totally honest, that’s very feminine. It’s all bubbly emotion, all the time. And I just wasn’t into it. Turns out God has a different definition; read 1 Corinthians 13 for more on what robust, biblical love looks like.
But the more I read the Bible, the more problematic my view of “love as personality trait” became. Two things became incredibly clear to me:
1. Love is an evidence of salvation.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
-1 John 4:7-9
All of the sudden, love wasn’t so peripheral any more. It was essential. If I didn’t have it, what did that say about my relationship with God? If I did have a relationship with God, why wasn’t my heart more characterized by love?
To be honest, that didn’t comfort me very much. In fact, it scared the crud out of me. I had long seen myself as someone who was low on the love meter. My heart just wasn’t some warm, bubbling sea of affection for God and others. It was often cold, indifferent or even hostile. I realized that what I had always accepted about myself was something God was very intent on changing.
2. Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The Holy Spirit lives in the heart of every Christ follower and He produces love inside of us. As surely as an apple tree brings forth apples, the Spirit of God brings forth love. Newsflash: love isn’t a personality trait and it is something we can grow in. It’s something God produces inside of us.
The more I reflected on God’s love for me in Jesus, the more I found myself loving other people. In fairness, I still experience love through the lens of my personality. Love for me is a steady, even keeled commitment to do whatever I can for you. It doesn’t come out in poetry. It comes out in prose. But it does come out. It’s there and, by God’s grace, it’s growing.
Don’t you dare believe you are condemned to a loveless life. Jesus died to free you from that, to place His love on you so firmly that you find love rising up from the depths of your heart. The more you walk with Him, the more you’ll learn to love.