Love Can Be Learned

"Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel." -  Philippians 1:15-17

The apostle Paul had a pretty good understanding of human nature. He knew, no doubt from personal experience, the sneaky little motives and emotions that creep into our well-intentioned ministries and work. But he also knew that many share their faith “out of love,” and for that he prayed, that their love would grow greater everyday.

In other words, love can be learned! 

You can get better at loving and at being loved! That is tremendous news! It brings hope to all of us who sometimes have a difficult time being the loving person we idealize in our hopes and dreams.

True love is more than giddy or warm feelings. 

Love is a choice we make when we decide to follow Jesus and to love another more than ourselves. But it can be a hard choice, as we battle our human natures.

Sometimes I think we are afraid of true love —those warm, giddy feelings are easier to handle and less demanding.

In the Song of Solomon love is described as  “strong as death...it burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.  Many waters cannot quench love, nor can floods drown it” (Song 8:6-7).

“Strong as death” seems like an odd description of love, until you consider that just as death cannot be held back and is inevitable, so love can be equally powerful and inevitable.

Two potent forces, both capable of inciting joy, sorrow, anticipation, and fear.  Love and death are the opposite sides of the spectrum that often come around to meet each other.

Different yet alike—and the perceived “alikeness” is often what makes us fear the intensity of true love, the love that is ultimately from God. Fear of totally giving in and giving up a part of ourselves are what make us run from love, hold it at arm’s length, and fail to embrace it.

But the alternative—the place we find ourselves when we push love away—is best described by C.S. Lewis:  “The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from the all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”3

I despair of my ability to love the way I want to—and I’m also probably a little afraid of it.

I know that God’s love is so intense, passionate, consuming, and powerful that He was willing to give everything up, come to earth, and die—so we can learn and experience the joy of true love.

How do we grow in love? 

First, if we love anything, we want to learn more about it. If we love a person, we want to know more about him or her. If we love Jesus, we will want to know more about Him! But what if you don’t feel love?

That’s the good news. 

Learn more about the one you love, especially, the Lord, and you will find yourself falling in love.

Secondly, love is sensitive to the mind and heart of the one who is loved.  If we blindly and blatantly hurt the feelings of the one we claim to love, that is not love at all. True love, then, is to grow ever more sensitive to Jesus, to His will and desires. The more we grow to love Him, the more we will instinctively shrink away from evil and do what is right—and learn to love others.

True love can be learned, nurtured by the Holy Spirit, and grow into something beautifully fulfilling.

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” —John 15:13

[Photo: Gregory Jordan, Creative Commons]