In a minute, I want to explain real, authentic love, with practical applications, but first I want you to consider the sentences above. You may have read or heard them sometime in the past. Perhaps you know them very well. It is found in the 13th chapter of the book of 1 Corinthians, which is in The Holy Bible.
As you consider those sentences, does that level of love sound almost impossible to achieve? How can anyone possibly claim to have that kind of love for another person?
You will want to think about those words in the days ahead. For now, though, I want us to look at a definition that fits both those sentences and an absolute moral standard.
Remember our title – “Warning: Real Love Works!”
I know from experience that real love works. My husband and I have been married more than 50 years. We have felt strong affection for one another throughout that time – and we still do. We have felt, and still do feel, real delight in each other. We take pleasure in being with each other. Affection, delight, and pleasure all are part of real love, but those are feelings. Our love goes far, far beyond feelings.
That’s because love is not just another word for feelings. Real love does have feelings, but it also takes action beyond sensual fulfillment. There is a big difference. We do not say, “I feel love for you,” but we do say, “I love you.” Our feelings affect us in such a way that they cause action in very practical areas of life.
WHAT REAL LOVE IS
Love feels something toward another person – the object of the love. Then love takes action. Love thinks about the person who is the object of the love, and chooses to do what is best for that person. It does so even when the action involves some kind of personal sacrifice on the person loving. Finally, the love willingly accepts the consequences of doing what is best for the other.
Practical Application #1 – Real Love Works on Dates
The photo below can help us understand real love. We will call the man Paul and the woman Felicity. Felicity is the object of Paul’s love. He is attracted to her sensually, but his love goes beyond feelings, and is authentic in every aspect.
Paul’s original plans for the evening involved a romantic restaurant dinner, followed by a walk on the beach, a full moon painting Felicity’s hair with glistening gold. Both of them had eagerly anticipated this evening for weeks.
Felicity called Paul that afternoon, however, and gave him bad news. Her professor had assigned an undoable amount of work in her toughest course. The class lecture rambled all over and she can’t figure it out, let alone do the difficult assignment. She said she still wanted to go out with him, but she didn’t know how she could do both.
Paul’s self-centered desires tried to get the upper hand, but Paul’s love works. He put aside his own selfish desires and thought about Felicity – the object of his love. He considered what would be best for her.
They still needed to eat, but he’d get something. She could save time by not dressing up for the evening. Paul sacrificed his personal desires and called the restaurant to cancel his reservations. Then he ordered pizza.
Paul’s love for the object of his love did not stop its work there, either. Paul sat down and looked at her assignment. Discovering that he had studied the same material two years earlier, he quickly began to tutor Felicity. When his memory stalled, he wanted to give up. It wasn’t his task – but he sacrificed personal frustration to alleviate hers. For her sake, he dug deeper, working to find the best way to explain the task to Felicity.
Paul has learned that real love works. He exercised real love by sacrificing personal time, effort, and emotions to find the best ways to help Felicity. He put Felicity’s needs above his own desires.
Practical Application #2 – Real Love Works among Friends
The next photo can help us understand real love among a group of friends. Imagine your hand in this photo. Aimey invited you and some mutual friends to dinner at her house. She talked about the evening animatedly, obviously eager to share some new cooking class skill with her friends.
When you arrived, the others were already sitting around a table. A variety of small bowls sat around a portable grill in the center of the table. You noticed a dipping sauce in one bowl. Another bowl held kimchi. A third one held what had to be spicy green onion salad – a well-known Korean BBQ companion salad.
Your heart sank. Aimey invited you to a Korean Barbecue! It wasn’t that you hate the taste of Korean BBQ. You like it, but it always triggers your gastrocolic reflex in the most agonizing way! You wish Aimey had asked you ahead of time if you eat Korean BBQ. Not everyone can handle those spices.
You are right: Aimey should have asked. Real love works that way. Aimey’s dinner party revolved around her personal desires, insisting on her own way without consideration for her friends – the objects of her love. Real love would have worked to sacrifice an eagerness to show off a new recipe. Real love would have worked to make her serve options, preparing something less spicy for those who needed it.
Real love would have caused Aimey to do what was best for each guest, setting aside her personal desires even if that gave her fewer boasting rights.
Practical Application #3 – Real Love Works in Families
Our final photo considers real love at work within a family. A parent who exercises authentic love meets the children’s needs: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
Randy and Tamara will work as names for the parents in this photo. They learned the hard way that real love is not easy!
When Randy and Tamara’s first child was a toddler, they showered her with hugs and kisses. They acted extra sweet when the girl misbehaved because discipline seemed so harsh. Discipline hurt them, too – and took time. They bought her more toys, mistaking an overflowing toy box for love. They gave her what she demanded, just to have peace.
The toddler grew, and demanded more independence. She threw temper tantrums in stores, embarrassing Tamara and Randy. They walked away from her screams more than once to hide their wounded egos. One by one, more children came into the family, and the story repeated itself. Randy and Tamara did not apply real, authentic love.
One day, a new family moved in next door. Randy and Tamara invited them and their children to a backyard picnic, and quickly began to see that real love works.
Unlike Randy and Tamara, this father and mother kept an eye on their children – who were the objects of their love. Repeatedly, one of them would step away from pleasant conversation to correct bad behavior, or apply a small bandage without undue fuss. Not once did they act on demands from a child. Instead, they always considered what was best for the child and acted accordingly. Repeatedly, they sacrificed their personal desire for a relaxing picnic so that the objects of their love would receive what was good for them in each situation.
Randy and Tamara learned that real love works with children because the parents do what is best for those children, even when they must sacrifice their own desires.
Children will often manifest unhappiness with parental actions. They may even shout, “You don’t love me.” However, good parents will show that real love works by thinking what the child most needs, and doing what is best, even at personal sacrifice.
Humans have written many things about love that just are not so. John Lyly wrote “all is fair in love and war” in 1579. “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” came from a movie: Love Story. “You can’t be wise and in love at the same time,” wrote Bob Dylan.
Warning: real love works no matter what men have written or will write to the contrary.