Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. (NLT)
We use the word “love” so often and hear it used in so many ways that seem to misunderstand the essence of love. People say they “find love” and perhaps mean they find someone who makes them happy. Nothing too wrong with that, but it leaves us wondering just what love is being spoken about.
Love basically involves seeking the good of the other person. Being loved and valued is a great by-product of that, but love fundamentally involves giving before receiving. I may benefit from loving another person but that benefit is not to be confused with love. Loving what someone does for me is natural enough, but there is more to real love than that.
Some of our love is sadly more to do with our desperate and yet legitimate desire to be loved. Or perhaps our need to be needed. And so we sometimes see a toxic sort of relationship being formed where a needy person seeks to control or dominate another needy person. Any “love” in such a relationship is a sad delusion.
Clinging too tightly to another human being denies them the freedom to become the person God made them to be. Love sets the loved one free rather than making them conform to our own desires and satisfy our own need to be loved.
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The story has been told of a little girl who discovered a beautiful butterfly in her garden. She took hold of it to show her mother, but all she could show in the end was the crushed body of the butterfly. The thing she loved had been destroyed by her desire to clutch it too tightly. Love of that sort is not at all loving.