Love is one of those rare words that is just as likely to be timeless as it is to be a cliché. The timeless nature of love is the ideal that most of us strive for in all of our relationships. When this ideal version of love appears, the world seems to be a better place. On the other hand, the cliché nature of love becomes evident when we saddle it with a laser like focus on our own interests at the expense of the interests of others. This empty love tends to be effective for short-term objectives but its lasting effects are similar to the downer that follows a drug induced high.
Thankfully, God has left us some clues to help us identify true love. Godly love provides the standards that allow us to see how well our “love" measures up to “His" love. Below are some, but certainly not all of the traits of Godly love:
- Self-sacrificial - Surely God had better things to do than put up with humankind. Yet, He did more than just put up with us; He also made great sacrifices for us. In our human relationships, the more we can put the interests of others above our own, the greater the potential stability of that relationship. In the spirit of self-sacrifice, we do things for the right reasons instead of because they serve our selfish interests.
- Outward looking - Because God does not need us, there is no benefit to Him when He does things for us. For God, His love for us is not about what He gets out of it, but what we get out of it. When we can love others not because of how it benefits us, but because it benefits them, we are exhibiting a key component of Godly love. Concerning the self-sacrificial and outward looking aspects of Godly love, they can only exist to the extent we have reduced the influence of our egos.
- Uplifting - One major outcome of the outward looking nature of God's love is that it makes us better. Because God loves us, He does things that improve us and also there is a redeeming quality to His love. By expressing Godly love to others, we are putting into motion the betterment and improvement of people we interact with. With respect to the redeeming aspect of Godly love, those with the coldest hearts or other undesirable traits can be changed miraculously. Again, this power to uplift and to redeem is all the more effective when we prevent our egos from poisoning the love we give.
- Fearless - Obviously, God does not love us because He is afraid of us. Affection born out of fear leads one to be dominated and manipulated. When we frighten others into loving us or we base our love of others on fear, we are heading down the path of abuse, dominance or manipulation. Pure love and fear do not mix and they cannot coexist in the same relationships.
- Does not hold one hostage to their past - God does not throw our past in our faces. Instead He gives us numerous chances to move beyond our mistakes which allow our relationship with Him to grow. In our interactions with others, we cannot keep reminding people of the bad things they used to do because it locks them in a time warp from which we will not let them escape. However, just as God did with us, when we learn to release people from their pasts; that opens up new avenues of growth and bonding that leads to strong relationships.
In all of our relationships, whether we are referring to family members, romantic partners, co-workers, platonic friends, fellow church members or casual acquaintances; Godly love helps to make them more meaningful and life-affirming. True love can have far reaching positive effects in all of our interactions while steering us away from relationships that end in feelings of bitterness, frustration, hatred or heart-break. When it comes to enjoying fulfilling relationships of all kinds, Godly love is truly the real thing.
Kevin Morgan is an author, entrepreneur and publisher. His publishing company, Sowjourn Publishers, markets books that uplift and inspire. To learn more about living a fulfilled life as a Christian single, visit http://www.sowjourn.com or his blog on singleness: http://mooskm.blogspot.com