I know it may be a strange thought but Christmas reminds me how many cheap things there are in life. As I walk down the toy aisles and examine the various offerings being totted as a reasonable and exciting gift for my children, all I can see is the broken pieces that will be left in about a week's time. Things are not made to last at all. We'll spend $20 or perhaps $40 on a gift for a child that will most likely be found in the dump within a few months, and most people find this acceptable. This attitude is not just with toys.
We talk about love but the attitude we see is that love is a disposable thing. We see relationships ending all the time as the thrill of it wears off or as the couple fails to deal with their differences. It is easier to walk away than to deal with it. The problem is we do not take the time to explore what we are feeling about a person to know the difference between love and infatuation. We know that love is something that grows and deepens with time but there are certain signs that we can look for in the other person to know if they are sincere. What we are looking for is what actual love provokes in us compared to the cheaper feelings of infatuation.
Here is a simple test. Consider what love is suppose to and not suppose to produce in us:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. (1 Corinthians 13:4)
If you are currently single I encourage you to consider this about the person who is currently your object of affection. Take a really good look at them and see if there is any envy, boasting or pride found in them when it comes to your relationship. If your true love feels any envy toward you then understand it is not love they are feeling. Love celebrates the successes and achievements of others. Boasting is often an offshoot of envy, as the person tries to promote themselves over others in order to look good. Pride can never be part of a loving relationship and is a sign that there is diffidently too much immaturity here. Love promotes humility and the desire to lift up others ahead of ourselves.
We can take this beyond a romantic relationship and consider the Body of Jesus. This might sound like boring stuff to you compared to the exciting gifts of the Spirit but if we can't get an understanding of this then the gifts are useless. So often division exists in the Church because we have yet to move into mature love. We are envious of other believers instead of celebrating with their success. We try to put other believers down as we boast about ourselves, holding up our pastor or our church as being so much better than any others. This only causes hurt and the need for others to defend their own church. Then there is the whole pride issue which prevents any of us from working together as we have been called to do.
Just these three things show that we do not have a grasp of the importance of relationships in the Kingdom of God. We say that we love but God did more than just tell us that he loves us. He took those words and he put them into action. Love is not just a feeling, it is a force that provokes us to take action. It is more than just a commitment to be part of that person's life, it is a declaration of what actions we will take in that person's life. Love dictates how we will respond to that person, and I am not just speaking of romantic relationships here. In the Church there are certain attitudes and actions we must take with each other in order to fulfill Jesus command to love each other. If we could get a better understanding of this much of the division we see would disappear.
Now since I brought up the notion of romantic relationships here let me add this: If you are involved with someone right now that you see these warning signs please do not think you can change them. They are too immature for what you need. They need some time to grow up in their love. If you do not step away for a while their immaturity will end up scaring you. Maturity has nothing to do with age and everything to do with learning and growing. As long as you are with them you will be their enabler to stay in their immaturity. I know your heart is entangled right now but you are in for a lot of abuse if you don't take the decision to release them to let them grow up. Look at them and considetr: love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. The flip side is that we should also be able to see authentic love in ourselves with other people. If not, realize we have some growing to do as well and the best way to do that is to learn to love God first.
We would have a lot less wastage in relationships if we would just come to grips with the fact that love takes effort, commitment and a lot of work. Love also takes a deepening understanding, a growing process, a realization that love changes us. Love is always about seeking the best for the people in our lives, of promoting others, of celebrating their achievements. Love is never about tearing people down to promote ourselves. If we could get a good understanding of this truth our relationships would go from being plastic and disposable, to sincere and long lasting.