What would you give up to experience true love?
I interviewed several men and women, asking them what they would give up for love. Their answers were telling.
- “I’d give up Diet Dr. Pepper. And I am hard-core addicted.”
- “I would give up a promotion, or even my dream job.”
- “I gave up gluten (flour) because my wife is allergic. No more pizza, breadsticks, cake or cinnamon buns in our house. But I love her and she is worth it.”
- “A big house, or even a house in general. I’d live in a shack to be with the man I loved.”
- “Proximity to family. I’d move anywhere in the world for love.”
As humans, we crave this paradox called love. Whether or not we’ve ever experienced it, we desire it. Even when it shatters our hearts, we want it back. We are desperate to be loved. Mother Teresa said, “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” It is why romantic stories sell book after book and movie after movie, even when the basic plot is the same. We simply can’t resist a powerful, sweeping depiction of love. Throughout history, great love stories have defined cultures, captivated entire generations, and lasted long after the civilization that created it lies in ruins.
In 15th century England, it was Shakespeare’s doomed young love of Romeo and Juliet. During the time of the Knights, it was the forbidden romance of Lancelot and Guinevere. For Rome, it was a love that spanned empires in Antony and Cleopatra. For the Greeks, it was the war-inciting love between Paris and Helen of Troy. For my grandmother, it was the tempestuous civil war tale of Scarlet O’Hara and Rhett Butler. For my mom, it was some movie I’ve never heard of called Love Story that was popular in the 70’s. For my older cousins, it was the tragedy of Rose and Jack on The Titanic. For me and my friends it was the sweet agony of Noah and Allie in The Notebook. According to the high school girls in my church (and some of my friends, who will remain unnamed to protect them from mockery), their picture of true love is the angst-filled relationship of Edward and Bella in Twilight. It isn’t just a phase for teenage girls – this longing for love is found in every age group and every culture.
This love that we crave isn’t weak, easy, fluffy, or cheap. We crave an all-consuming, life-altering, die-for-you kind of love. We want a love that costs us something….costs us everything. Yet is so powerful and amazing that we are happy to give up anything in this physical world to have it. We are hungry for a love so powerful that it could destroy us, but doesn’t. As one of my friends admitted, “It isn’t really love unless it has the potential to destroy you.” We want a love that defines us.
Why We Crave Love
That craving for true love each of us has? That longing to be known by someone who loves us in spite of our flaws and quirks? That is our God-created craving for Himself.
Our Maker, the God of Heaven and Earth, designed each of His children with a God-sized hole in our soul. He created us with a longing that only He can fulfill. And all this chasing after love on earth is the futile attempt of humanity to find a substitute for God.
For a long time I couldn’t grasp the pull of Twilight. I couldn’t understand why women of all ages turned to putty and melted with longing for an “Edward” to come into their life. Apparently pasty guys with red eyes are not my type. But I think I get it now – the whole Twilight story, a love that crosses human boundaries… that overcomes all odds…. that defies death…. a love that is so all-consuming it lasts forever. This kind of love is exactly what we, as humans, were created by God to crave. The Twilight story is a cheap and incomplete imitation of the love we were designed to experience with God alone. Jesus left heaven for earth…. He overcame sin for us…. He conquered death so that we could live…. and His love for us will last for eternity. God is dangerous and powerful. He has the power to destroy us and the reason to destroy us (sin), yet He doesn’t. But, where Twilight failed is the ending. It is a love story without redemption. Because in the end, Edward corrupted Bella, took her soul, so that they could be together. God, on the other hand, sacrificed his Son to redeem his bride. He didn’t destroy us so we could experience true love. He purified us so that we could have a relationship with Him, a relationship that ultimately saves us from our own well-deserved destruction. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
No human relationship – no matter how perfect it seems – will ever completely meet that need for love. Do you ever wonder why we constantly seek love from others, yet never feel completely satisfied? It’s because God designed us for an unconditional love, and we, as humans, are flawed. One wife explained, “The more marriage makes me more like Christ the more I realize only He can show me true love. As much as I love my husband, he will let me down. He will fail to show me true love and I will do the same to him. But that makes me fall even more in love with Christ because I know He will never hurt me, or hold my failures against me. He will always give me complete grace and mercy. He’s the one who has sacrificed everything for me. He’s my first and best husband. He is my first TRUE LOVE.” God tells his people, “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.” Isaiah 54:5
- You long for someone to love you so much that he would die for you? Jesus did that (John 3:16, Gal. 2:20, John 15:13)
- You desire a love that will never change and never give up on you? God’s love is steadfast (Gen 24:27, Deut. 7:9, Ps. 52:8, Ps. 36:2,26)
- You need a love that can never be taken away? Nothing can separate you from God’s love (Romans 8:37-39)
- You want a love that demands your heart, soul and strength? God asks that of you (Deut. 6:5; 10:12)
- You crave a love that transforms your entire world? God’s love gives you a whole new set of guidelines (Deut. 11:1,13, 1 John 5:3)
- You desire a love that protects you? God is your refuge (Ps. 36:7)
- You long for a love that is not based on your performance or ability to give back? God loved you when you hated him (Romans 5:8)
- You want a love that spills over into your interactions with other people? God’s love enables you to love others (1 Thes. 4:9, 1 John 4:7-12)
- You need a love that drives away the fears in life? God’s love casts out fear (1 John 4:18)
The Price of Love
God’s love for us isn’t weak, it doesn’t make him wimpy, it isn’t easy, and the cost is exceedingly high. The price of experiencing His love is so high that you can never afford it, so He paid the price and offered it to you free of charge. Your only cost is surrender. You must give up an old life as a slave to sin for a new life defined by His true love.
The only thing that can affect this love? Your sin.
Understand this, God does not stop loving us, or love us less, because we sin. The Bible is quite clear that while we were still lost in sin – a.k.a. hating God – He loved us and sent His Son to bear the punishment for our sin so that we could be redeemed and experience an intimate relationship with Him.“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Eph. 2:4-6
Nothing – physical or spiritual – can make God stop loving us. Nothing we do can change the amount of love that God loves us. For the believer, eternity is certain. If you have not yet made Jesus your Lord and Savior, then now is the time. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
However, our sin directly affects our fellowship with God. It is in that intimate relationship with our Maker, that fellowship, that we, the human, feel the all-consuming love of God in our lives. When we are in sin, we no longer feel that love – not because God’s love ceased or changed – but because sin has broken our fellowship with God. Our intimate fellowship with God changes when we sin, because our holy, righteous God cannot be intimate with sin. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:5-9
The only thing that can stop you from feeling the presence of God’s love in your life is …your sin. God’s love is still there, still just as powerful. But when you are living in sin, that God-sized hole in your soul will ache with longing to be reunited with that love.
God’s love is ferocious, magnificent, demanding, and consuming. It is beautiful and it is costly. It will cost you your heart. A heart full of evil and selfishness and fleshly desires.
He is asking you to give up all. The sin that controls your life. The selfishness that controls your choices. Release it all. Total surrender. Complete repentance.
The only thing that stands between you and experiencing unadulterated, life-transforming, true love in your life are those sins you won’t give up. Those sins that you refuse to turn from. That need for control that you refuse to relinquish to God. You are afraid of what He might ask you to give up. Not your material possessions, because they define you. Not your plans for the future, because you are petrified that God might send you to Africa, or inner-city Chicago. Not your dreams, because being single for a time…or forever… is the worst thing you can imagine. Not that attitude of bitterness and unforgiveness toward the one who wronged you, because they deserve to be hated. Not that secret sin that you think no one knows about, because you like it and it isn’t really hurting anyone. It is that sin that separate you from experiencing the true love of your Maker, your husband.
Is it really worth it? That attitude, that fleeting-pleasure, that ….sin?
What would you give up to experience true love?