What is your definition of love?

We receive love in childhood through affection, wise discipline, affirmation, laughter, play, prayer . . . in lots of ways both large and small. We start to make our own lists of what love is while we are still in the womb, and we add to it throughout our childhood. Then we put it in our love box, wrap it up so prettily, and wait for someone to come along and satisfy all the requirements we have set up.

Our definition of love is inadequate when it is limited to the definition we made based on our early experiences. Even in the best of homes, no parent is perfect. We are going to get hurt. All of our requirements are not going to be met. There will be times when there is an inadequate amount of love given to meet the felt need we have at that certain time. And so our love definition can get twisted. We make judgments and vows about what love is and isn’t, and this misperception keeps us from giving or receiving a full measure of love.

  • You don’t really love me. If you did, you would do this or that.
  • When I get married, my husband won’t work all crazy shifts like my dad did. He will always be home for supper and be able to attend all the children’s programs.
  • My wife will always have the laundry done in a timely manner—I’ll always have just what I need to wear hanging in the closet. And the house will be neat, not like the pigpen I grew up in.
  • When my children grow up and get married, they will want to spend all their holidays with us.

Do you understand your individual definition of love? What are the requirements—what have you wrapped up in our boxes called love?

We need to understand that our unredeemed love involves manipulation, exploitation, possession, control, and demand that our needs be met. The opposite of unredeemed love is sacrificial love; that’s how God loves us (John 3:16-17).


The problem is not having needs or even wanting to have our needs met. Our needs are real and are stirred by a God who wants to draw us to himself. And he wants us to exchange our false identification of love and transform them into what Godly love really is.

God loves us with agapeo love: love that desires the good of another over yourself. And that love is ours to accept or reject. And when we accept it, when we enter into relationship with Him, His Holy Spirit enters our hearts—and we begin to transform. He pours his love into us, and we open our hearts to be filled to overflowing. That’s how we can love others the way God loves us.


Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

   “For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35-39

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