4 Myths About Love
“Hunter Ochsner, I love you; I want to spend the rest of my life with you; will you marry me?” My good friend knelt before me after four-and-a-half months of dating with this question on his lips.
He loves me! I thought. Wow. He wants to marry me?! Oh dang! Until that day, we hadn’t kissed, exchanged that sentiment, or even talked about getting married. Naturally, I was shocked. We jokingly say that our first kiss involved a whole lot of teeth, because I could not stop smiling! Even with our toothy-grinned kiss, I knew this had to be it: the pinnacle of love.
You’d think that my views on love would have expanded beyond the romanticized ideals I’d derived from You’ve Got Mail and my other favorite romantic comedies. But even after walking with Jesus for more than two decades, I’d still fallen prey to a few covert myths about love. Most of the false notions I’ve maintained on the topic have imploded within the context of Biblical community, especially in the most potent expression of community that exists on this side of heaven: marriage.
Fast-forward past our marriage and honeymoon, straight into a seemingly bottomless chasm of selfishness, miscommunication, and unmet expectations. I would never have expected to find the truest form of love in the midst of such darkness. My husband and I sat across from one another, gazing into the muddy mess we’d made, feeling quite hopeless.
“I’ve failed you as a husband,” he said.
I looked up, my cheeks wet with tears. “And I’ve failed you.”
It was there, in the midst of humility and confession, that we found ourselves sitting at the foot of the Cross, where we were free to be exactly who we are: two sinners in desperate need of a Savior. There, under the Cross of Christ, we all find the truest, most powerful expression of love: Christ himself.
MYTH #1: LOVE IS (JUST) A VERB
The idea that love is an action is Biblical: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). But love isn’t just a verb; it is also a noun. Love is a person, namely God himself. “God is love,” the source of all things loving, and our example of love (1 John 4:7–8). So it is with him that we must begin and end every belief we have on the subject.
Jesus was the most loving person to ever walk the earth, so it should stand to reason that we must check everything we believe about love with his life, death, and resurrection. In Christ we can see what our love for God and for others should look like. After all, “we love because he first loved us” (1 John. 4:19).
We have to begin with a proper understanding of who love is before we can walk in the way of love. This is an essential foundation because the noun and the verb are not exclusive. If we do not know the God of love, our acts of love become self-serving.
To contrast the Hollywood notion that love is a feeling, many Christians have adopted the slogan “Love is a choice.” While there is some truth to the expression, it mistakenly draws attention to us and our ability to love, as opposed to pointing to the creator and sustainer of love himself. Apart from him, there is no possible way we could muster up any amount of real love. We are completely dependent upon the grace of God to both know and extend love. That is why we must start with the origin of love himself as we seek to obey God’s command to love him with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:36–39).
MYTH #2: LOVE MEETS MY NEEDS
I mistakenly believed that if my husband and I both compromised some of our wants and desires, then we’d both be fulfilled. The truth is, love isn’t a 50–50 division of responsibility. Marriage calls us to give 100 percent of ourselves to our spouses. Sacrifice is at the very heart of love. When we give up everything, we get a small taste of what it’s like to be Jesus. Laying aside our preferences and desires for the sake of the other, we find ourselves at the very threshold of love.
The beautiful thing is that, when we practice this within the context of biblical community, it actually is fulfilling. As we pour into others, the Lord pours into us—sometimes by using the service of others—and our needs are met, even if it’s not the way we envisioned it. In order to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we must know them. And for them to meet our needs, we must allow ourselves to be known. Christ makes it possible for us to take off our masks and dare to live authentically.
This genuineness may flesh itself out in the form of a sincere apology when you sense you’ve wronged someone. It could involve admitting that your feelings have been hurt and giving your offender the opportunity to apologize. Or it might require you to lay aside your pride and receive help. You may need to divulge your weaknesses and walk in confession. For some, it could mean speaking less, while for others it could mean speaking more.
Authenticity is vulnerable and usually scary, but it is here that we learn what it means to, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:10).
MYTH #3: LOVE IS ALL PLEASANTRIES
In the first few years of marriage I feared stepping on my husband’s toes. In my friendships I often default to the notion, “I’ll love them through their sin,” instead of choosing to have a difficult exchange about their sin.
The truth is, loving others well means taking God’s side against sin, and, sometimes, that looks fierce and relentless. Practically, this means we must be willing to have hard conversations with those we love. And when it’s necessary, we should even go so far as to bring up topics that might prove laborious! Have the courage to say things that nobody else is willing to say. Be a strong encouragement to those you love until they realize what you’ve come to realize.
What does it look like to humbly and confidently offer correction to your sister in Christ? Or to share the Gospel with someone who doesn’t know Jesus? Let’s love one another enough to set aside our desire to be liked or exalted by others, for the sake of their holiness and the purity of the Bride of Christ. In order to do this both humbly and confidently, we must continually remind ourselves of who we are: sinners in desperate need of Jesus. Keeping this in mind, we recognize that the brother or sister we’re confronting is just like us. They need the Gospel. We need the Gospel. We find ourselves sitting under the Cross of Christ together, overshadowed by his grace.
This Gospel motivates us to speak the truth in love. It demands that we be honest with ourselves about who we are. In fact, the most loving thing we could ever do for another human is to point them to Jesus or to walk in confession of our own sin. In confrontation and confession, sin loses its power.
As God sheds light on the junky areas of our lives, we can see more clearly our need for Jesus. Seeing ourselves accurately can be terrifying. The massive gap that exists between us and a holy God expands. As it does so, our view of who Jesus is gets bigger and bigger, and the knowledge of our immense need of him grows too. This is what it means to worship: to delight in who he is and what he has done for us.
MYTH #4: LOVE FUELS OUR JOY
If love fuels our joy, we’ll run dry pretty quickly. We are completely incapable of generating genuine love by ourselves. Love is from our Father, through him, and to his glory (Rom. 11:36). Our joy actually fuels our love! Delighting in his lavish love advances our joy, and that joy spurs us on to love as he has loved: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for this friends” (John 15:13). Take, for example, the Macedonian believers Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 8:2, “For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part” (emphasis added). Their abundance of joy in God led them to love lavishly.
In his book Desiring God, John Piper writes, "Love is the overflow and expansion of joy in God, which gladly meets the needs of others."
If we’re not careful, however, we can easily swing to the opposite end of the spectrum, embracing only the difficult aspects of love while joylessly forsaking ourselves in order to freely give to others. But God wants us to take pleasure in him and in loving his children.
Think about how you came to love your spouse, dear friend, or your Christian community. You grew in your love for them as you came to know more of their personalities, interests, and passions. Much like a lover or a friend, as our knowledge of God increases, our pleasure and delight in him will grow as well. Looking away from ourselves and looking to Jesus elicits joy in Christ, who will lead us to love and to serve others as he has done, even unto death. The beautiful thing is that this is where we find true life!
The whole world looked upon Jesus’ death and thought, This is the end, when it was the exact opposite: Jesus’ death was the beginning of life eternal. In love, he died, overcoming all injustice, hate, calamity, and oppression when he rose again on the third day. May we treasure this Good News above all, and in doing so, live to reflect the one who makes it reality: Jesus Christ, the God of love.
“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. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:7–11)