What is Love? (Baby Don't Hurt Me)

If you were to look into a mirror at this exact moment, what would you see staring back at you?

Now this is an interesting question, because every person in the world would have a different answer that was driven by a different perspective of the question being asked. Some would provide me with a physical description of themselves, whether that be hair or eye color, skin tone, height, basic facial features, etc., while others would perhaps dig a bit deeper into the question and begin to reflect some of their emotions and fears and insecurities, moving beyond merely the physical descriptions to discuss the things they love or hate about themselves, whether that be their majestic skin tanned like that of a Greek god, or perhaps the mole on the nose, the scar under their right eyebrow, or the weight which they have been unsuccessfully trying to cut for the past year. Yet still others would take an entirely different approach to the question and would begin listing out their aspirations, whether that be listing out their hopes when it comes to a future occupation or perhaps stating what they see themselves capable of accomplishing in the future. Still others would merely reflect their emotional—or, I guess, physical—state of mind, a young man seeing his reflection through an old man’s eyes or, vice versa, an old man seeing his reflection through a young man’s eyes. For every person there is a different response, and each response is quite telling about whom that person is and what they think about themselves.

But today I want to tell you a truth, for doesn’t the very title of my blog—Now Let’s Be Honest—invoke the notion that I intend on being honest with you to some extent that you refuse to be honest with yourself?

When you look at yourself in the mirror, if you declare yourself a Christian—or a follower of the Way, as we were once called—you should see this: a son, a daughter, of the Father. You are a king or queen who is also brother or sister with the Son, who died upon a cross so that we may live. You are indwelt by the Spirit who now lives in us thanks to that very sacrifice. You are no longer just a tired person who sees in his reflection nothing but the fears and agonies of this world, but instead a transformed creation who finds the strawberries God has provide us in this life and tastes of them to be enraptured by their sweetness. You no longer fear the fires of this world for you know that our God in heaven has a plan that is meant to prosper, a plan that is purely for your own benefit and His own glory (Jer. 29:11). You are complete, for Christ—who is God in heaven and who is also complete—has become one with you (1 Cor. 6:17, 1 John 4:12). Your true self—that self that you should see in the mirror—is a reflection of true love, for, as stated before, you have become one with Christ, who is love (1 John 4:8).

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light” (Matt. 6:22). It is only with proper eyes that you can see your proper reflection, but God has given us those eyes so that we may at last see who we truly are thanks to Him! If you look into the light and look with the eyes that the Father has provided, you will no longer see the things that hold you back in this life—your weight, your looks, your “limitations,” your “insecurities,” whatever they may be. Instead, when you see your reflection, you should not see yourself but God, because you are a representation of Him, an ambassador of His Way (2 Cor. 5:20). You were made in His image (Gen. 1:27), and how beautiful is that image! To see yourself as anything less than perfect, as anything less than the son or daughter of the Father, a son or daughter who was declared righteous by the Son and who is now indwelt by the Spirit, is to lie to yourself. Your sins have been forgiven and your slate wiped clean, so why do you see in the mirror but an imperfect sinner who lives in this world? Open your eyes and see your true self.

But now you are wondering where I am going with all this, for surely I am not merely spewing an extended motivational speech out at you, or so you would assume.

In part, no, but in part yes, for while I do have an endpoint that I am striving for, it is just as motivational if not more motivational than that which I have already said. It requires responsibility, yes, but the motivation behind that responsibility will leave you smiling ear-to-ear and the world a better place as a result.

As I have already stated, we are ambassadors for Christ, who is love. As we walk this “sterile promontory,” to quote Hamlet, we are living and breathing representations of God here on earth—a God who loved us so much that He sent His Son into the world not to condemn it, but to save it (John 3:16)! How great is it that, despite our faults, we get to represent the greatest superhero to have ever lived—the only true superhero to have ever lived.

As strange as it might seem, I want you to think of yourself as an actor, and this life here on earth as a role that you play. For this earthen vessel which you now occupy is not your eternal self, is it? By no means! So instead, look at yourself as an actor playing a part, the plot of the story beginning at your birth and ending at your death, at which point you will change out of costume and revert to being your true self…in heaven where you will be reunited with God. So, you see, this part you play can be as an author or as a student or as an engineer or as an athlete, but in actuality, none of those are the things that define your character—not unless you allow them to. The very thing that should define your character is its identification as one with God, for that should be the driving feature that affects everything the characters says, does, or even thinks! And how does one play the part of “one with Christ” while here on earth?

One word: LOVE.

Yes, it is love that will drive the character you play, love that will change the world and love which will properly reflect Christ in you. For if you see the daughter or son of God in your own reflection, does that not mean that people see the daughter or son of God pass by as they walk past you each and every day? You are no longer yourself, but Christ in you (Gal. 2:20), so not only are your actions a reflection of who you are, but also who Christ is! And as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (v.1-3). You see, it is not the actions themselves that drive the character, but the motivations behind the actions! You cannot accurately be a successful ambassador for Christ—the ideal representation that God wants us to be—without truly loving those around you.

NOW LET’S BE HONEST…we don’t really know what love is! Often, we think that love is simply giving to the poor or preaching the Good News of God, but as Paul just told us, even those things are possible without love. So what is love?! Should we run around the place kissing everyone and everything we see, grasping for hands and tackling people with massive bear hugs? Should we turn our Emotional IQ’s up to 1000% and run around spouting out poetry and love ballads to everyone we see?

Lucky for us, Paul goes on to provide us with an answer, and it is profound:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (v.4-7).

So this is love. This right here—these things listed before us—are the greatest evidence of our union with Christ, the very calling for which we have received. We may study Scriptures vigorously and be filled with infinite amounts of wisdom, yet if we cannot love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48), we prove nothing but that our doctrine is useless.

Love is patient, for what reason is there to rush what will inevitably come to be according to the will of God, and what faith does one have who gives up thanks to time? Love is kind, for you reflect the kindness that the Father showed you in sending His Son, and kindness brings happiness and expresses care. Love doesn’t envy, because it realizes that it is already complete through Jesus and is in need of nothing that the Lord has not already provided. Love does not boast, for it recognizes that we are equally inadequate for the gift God has given. Love is not proud, for we are all servants of the same Father, humbled yet again by our inadequacy of His gift. Love does not dishonor others, for love is intended to encourage and uplift, to honor and motivate, to restore and make new. Love is not self-seeking, because to be selfish is in fact to love this world and find meaning in its things; instead, love is sacrificial and giving, meant to sustain and care. Love is not easily angered, for anger, though itself not a sin, can lead to sinful expression, and is not love already stated as patient in its expression? Love keeps no records of wrong, for how can you take offense at and remain angry with an enemy who attacks only your earthen vessel? Love rejoices in the truth, for the truth will set you free (John 8:32). Love always protects, trust, hopes, and perseveres, for love should make one feel safe, comforted, and secure.

So you see, love is not merely giving money to the poor or giving everybody hugs. In actuality, love itself is rarely an external thing but instead an internal thing that results in external expression. As humans, yes, it is far too easy to see our own reflections in the mirror and thus act selfishly and very un-lovingly, but we have a greater call from God, a call to love both our neighbors and our enemies. This love should be directed to not only spouses or girlfriends or boyfriends or direct family members or friends, but everyone! Not only should you appreciate the strawberries and quit fearing the fire, but you should let go of the hate and malice and love the world that God has provided.

“Imagine a world in which you do not offer yourself or others any condemnation for any reason. Imagine not keeping a record of any wrongs, including those you thought threatened you a decade ago, or a month ago, or even an hour ago. Imagine living in a world in which no one condemned you for any failure or shortcoming. A world in which everyone loved everyone without blame. There would be no war. No envy, no strife. No secret thoughts of bitterness against others or yourself.” (Ted Dekker, The Forgotten Way).

So, my friends, I encourage you to look into the mirror and see your true selves, for this is how we will not only change ourselves and change the world, but change every relationship we have, whether romantic or platonic. This is love, and if Christ is love than so are we. Find your true self in the mirror, my friends. That is my challenge to you.