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Love Defined
Josh McDowell - August 10, 2014

Message Recap

Today we were privileged to hear from Bible scholar, pastor, and author Josh McDowell, who spoke about the most motivating, powerful word in our language: LOVE.

Defining love is critical, for love drives us and motivates us, yet many Christians cannot even truly explain what it means.

How do you define love?

Defining love is critical, for love drives us and motivates us, yet many Christians cannot even truly explain what it means.

If you can’t define love, how do you know whether or not you’re being loved?
If you can’t define love, how do you know whether or not you’re loving someone else?
If you can’t define love, how do you know whether or not you have loving relationships?

In a typical crowd, three of the top five answers for how to define love would be as follows:

  1. Love is…God. (Yes, He is, but what does that mean?  A definition should not be open to everyone’s individual interpretation.)
  2. Love is…1 Corinthians 13. (Not quite!  This chapter doesn’t define love, but rather describes the fruit of love.)
  3. Love is…a feeling.  (This can’t be.  If love were a feeling, then God wouldn’t demand it, as you can’t command someone to feel a certain way.  e.g. “Finish your dinner and like all the food you’ve been given!”  For God to command us to love, love would have to be an action, a choice.  It must to be an exercise of the will or a decision that results in an action.)

Our definitions are all over the place, and that is because we rarely have love actually defined for us.  The body of Christ teaches that we should love God, our neighbors, each other, and our enemies, but although we are told to love, we are rarely told what is means.  Thirty-eight percent of Christian evangelical young people believe that if you truly love someone, this makes sex right.  This is because without receiving a Biblical definition of love, the world defines love for us.

Josh shared that in all of his Biblical studies, he’s only found one scripture in the Bible that defines love:

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— Ephesians 5:28-29

Note that Paul does not write that husbands should love their wives as they love God or as they love others, but as they love their own bodies.  This echoes Jesus’ teaching in his confrontation with religious leaders in Matthew 22:36-39:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Josh believes that the number one cause of divorce is that men have not been taught to love themselves, hence they do not know how to love their wives or their children.

Don’t be thrown by this concept of self love.  It is a different term than that which is used in 2 Timothy 3:1-2,

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy…”

This loving of the self is the Greek “philautos” (phileo=deep, intimate, close friendship + auto=me, myself, I), or a self-focused relationship whose purpose is to satisfy one’s own desires.

The term used by Jesus and Paul in the above passages is “agape,” an others-centered love that is focused not on one’s own personal gain, but on giving and finding God’s meaning for your life in other people.

If you don’t have agape love for yourself first, you don’t have the foundation to understand how to love another person.  Josh likened this to the airplane guideline for oxygen masks: if you are traveling with a small child and the oxygen masks drop from the ceiling, you put on your own mask first and then you assist your child.  If you do not take care of your own oxygen needs first, you will pass out and be unable to assist anyone!  Equally with love, if you cannot love yourself and learn how to care for your own needs, you will be unable to love and care for another.

Paul reminds us that no one hates his own body but nourishes and cares for it.  So love is to nourish and to cherish, to bring to maturity.  Luke 2:52 tells us that Jesus was brought to maturity in four areas:

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:52

If you truly love yourself, you will bring yourself to maturity in these four ways:

  • “in wisdom” – mentally
  • “in stature” – physically
  • “in favor with God” – spiritually; and
  • “in favor with man” – relationally

By an act of his own will, a husband should make the choice to mature himself and to cherish, or care for, himself, protecting himself from anything or anyone who would hinder that process. This would mean to consider the videos one watches, the way a he conducts himself, the music he hears, the hobbies he pursues, and the friends with whom he spends time.

Paul instructs that this is the same way a husband is to love his wife: caring for her, nurturing her to maturity in all those ways, cherishing her as he cares for himself, and protecting her from anyone or anything that would hinder that process in her life.

All of these concepts can be condensed into three simple words: Provide (nourish is from the Greek meaning to provide nutrients for growth) and Protect (to care for and cherish).  This is God’s very nature.  He provides and protects through every commandment He gives to us, and He does this “for [our] good,” (Deuteronomy 10:13) not His.  In John 3:16 we read that because He loves us, He gave his only Son.  In Exodus 34:14 (though often misinterpreted), God says, “I am a jealous God.” In studying the Hebrew, one can discover that God means He is passionate about His relationship with you.  He doesn’t want to share you with anyone! He created you to know Him, serve Him, and follow Him.  He wants to protect and provide for you.

Delve deeper into understanding and living out love as God defines it!  We owe our children a truthful definition of love, as well as a demonstrative model of that love. To Provide and Protect is one of the greatest heritages we can leave behind!

The Secret of Loving
Right from Wrong - How God’s commandments protect and provide
The Bare Facts: 39 Questions Your Parents Hope You Never Ask About Sex
Straight Talk with Your Kids about Sex

This Message

In this message, special guest Josh McDowell asks how many of us really know what love is? He defines love and explains what it really means to love one another.

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