What is Love? Boy, there have been some wacky answers to that question put forward in popular songs and self-help books over the years. We all know love is the most fantastic thing in the world, but we have a hard time defining it. Sure, it includes the temporary, tingly, heart flutter feeling a new beau produces, your affection for your good old dog, and how much you like chocolate, but love is immensely more amazing than that. To define love by feelings, is to define a gigantic erupting volcano by the neat coffee mugs you can make from its ash. Love is the most profound and powerful energy in the universe. But what does it look like on planet earth?
God says that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends. We might not be willing to do this literally for very many people. Children? Definitely. Beyond that, everyoneís list will look different. But this definition of love encompasses far more than a literal ďI would die for you.Ē
To lay down your life in a figurative way, is to consider anotherís wellbeing and happiness as more important than your own. True love involves selflessness, or self-sacrifice. We give this to our babies without a thought when we forgo sleep and arrange our entire schedules around their needs. As children grow, we sacrifice time and money to give them what we think will contribute to their wellbeing. We lay down our livesóall the other things we could do with that time and moneyófor them because we love them.
For some reason, we are often less willing to lay down our lives for our spouses. Somewhere thereís a shift in attitude. Things must be fair. You yield, Iíll yield. Iíll give 50% and you give 50% (which is a sure recipe for marital disaster, by the way). We donít want to be taken advantage of, or not get our share of the goodies. I can tell you that laying down your life for each other is a much better plan. I love my husband 1000%Öand Iím on the lookout to learn what will contribute most to his wellbeing and joy in life. He wonít come right out and tell me exactly what those things are, probably, but Iím paying attention to any clues that I can find, because his happiness is extremely important to me.
Let me encourage you to engage in some risky behavior. Lay down your life for your spouse. He may reciprocate, but even if he doesnít, a lot of happiness can be generated by one person willingly giving of themselves for the good of another. Go to the ridiculous monster truck thing with him. Make that same chili he loves, again and again. Donít throw away his nasty old favorite shirt. Give him that ten minutes or an hour he needs to decompress after work before you remind him about the leaky shower. Forgive him when he makes mistakes, even really bad ones. Never talk bad about him to other people, ever. If he knows you have his back no matter what, he will be a happy man, secure and confident and ready to take on the world. Thatís what you want for someone you love, right? Men, change all the heís in this paragraph to sheís, and read it again.
God proclaims that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends, and he defines love this way because thatís how he loves. He literally laid down his life to pay our debt and conquer death for us, so he could offer us wellbeing and joy beyond our capacity to imagine, forever. We canít reciprocate, really, but we can offer our lives to him, for him to guide and use in whatever way he, with his perfect love and wisdom, sees fit. We can choose to lay down our lives, and let him pour his true, powerful, selfless love through us into the lives of our friends.