5 Characteristics of Real Love

People often talk about the “will of God.” Is it God’s will for me to move somewhere, marry someone, or start a business? These questions are legitimate, and God certainly has something to say about them.

We should also remember, though, that what God wants us to do is clear. His greatest priorities are very clear. He wants us to be loving people. He wants us to love God and our neighbor. If we learn to do that, then we are doing what God wants the most. Becoming lovers of God and others will keep us busy and give us great fulfillment.

But what does it mean to love others? There’s a lot of fake love. There are a lot of misconceptions about it. It’s hard to show real love for a lot of reasons, but one of those reasons is that we haven’t been taught how to love. We need to think more clearly about what love actually is.

The Apostle Paul gave an explanation of what love is all about in Romans 12. His more famous chapter on love is 1 Corinthians 13. 1 Corinthians 13 is more inspiring, but Romans 12 might have more solid instruction on what it means to really love. Let me show you five characteristics of real love from this chapter.

1. Real love is sincere: it starts in the heart. In Romans 12:9, we begin a long list of commands or rules. The first is, “Love must be sincere.” It must not be hypocritical. What does this mean? We can act like we love (“Bless our hearts”) and not really have that love in our heart. It is an act. We show kindness in our interactions but do not have it in our hearts. We have all known people who acted like they wanted to be with us but who ended up not having any real interest in us. It was a mask. We have also done this to others. It hurts when we discover it and when others discover it in us. This is insincere love.

What this means positively is that love begins in the heart. It is not enough to show it on our faces. We have to have it in our hearts. How do we really think and feel about people? That’s where love starts. Love is a genuine affection of the heart that desires union and communion with others.

2. Real love is attentive: it takes an interest in anybody it meets. Philostorgos is a Greek word. Paul uses it in Romans 12:10, and it is the only place we find it in the Bible. It is love like parents have for their children. It’s hard to translate into English in one word. Love takes an interest in other people’s well-being. Parents generally seek the well-being of their children in a way that simply gives. We need to learn to take that love and extend it out to others. Continue reading “5 Characteristics of Real Love”

Get Involved in Politics

“I hate politics!” If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. Politics is maddening for some, intoxicating for others. It’s hard to watch the hypocrisy and self-righteousness of political parties and the ensuing conflict it produces. At the same time, we can’t help watching it like we can’t help slowing to see a wreck on the side of the road.

In spite of the messiness and even ugliness of politics, we should get involved in politics. Politics is part of life. Politics represents the challenge of people of diverse interests trying to get together to do something significant. Wherever this occurs, in home or church or state, you will find politics.

It’s easy to state your own opinion with argumentative intensity. It’s hard to state your own opinion with an inviting sweetness. It’s easy to follow the crowd or curse it. It’s hard to hold your own position with an affable inflexibility.

So, why make the effort? Because God made us for something more than to live isolated lives. He made us to live in community and do bigger things than build our own little private kingdoms.

The kingdoms of this world contain injustices. When we can fill our bellies and enjoy our vacations, it’s easy to ignore them. It’s easy but not noble. To ignore what is wrong in the world and play our fiddle while it burns is contrary to our nature as creatures made for life in a broader community.

“But it’s so hard!” Some will say. People will oppose us. Indeed, they will. Moses received little praise and much trouble for his involvement in public life, but he founded a nation.

“But we need to worry about souls, eternal life, and heaven!” This objection has some plausibility. But do you work on your own yard? Do you maintain your vehicles? Do you save for your children? If you are concerned with your own plot of ground, why not the bigger plot of ground that is your community?

“But nothing can change!” Nothing can be perfect, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better. Was the American Revolution for nothing? Was slavery not worth opposing? Did not the civil rights movement remove the Jim Crow laws? Was not the Soviet communist empire overthrown?

If we are concerned about people, we will have to dirty ourselves in the messy world of politics. If we are concerned about justice, about our communities, our schools, our homes, our churches, there is no other option. We will have to get involved in politics.


Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash