1 John 3:16  “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”

     Recognising authentic love isn’t as easy as we might think.  Deborah Anapol, Ph.D. writes: “Love is inherently free. It cannot be bought, sold, or traded. You cannot make someone love you, nor can you prevent it, for any amount of money. Love cannot be imprisoned nor can it be legislated. Love is not a substance, not a commodity, nor even a marketable power source. Love has no territory, no borders, no quantifiable mass or energy output.”  This description sounds good.  Love is a gift and so for those that receive it – it appears to be free.   However, ‘free love’ is a casual concept which rarely examines love’s true foundation.  Love does cost.

    Our society has lost its way when it comes to love.  Love, all to often is characterised by grand gestures; a ‘free gifting’ of diamonds,  vacations, cars, perfumes and clothing.  This adolescent love, supposedly free to the receiver is paid for by credit which defers the cost for the giver to some indeterminate future.  The exchange of love’s tokens in our imperfect world comes with selfish expectations.  If this were not so then the divorce rate would be much lower.  Single mothers and abandoned children would be few and far between if authentic love was as prevalent and free as some argue.  Love costs and people avoid paying the price.  This stands in stark contrast to God’s love which Jesus paid for in full with no guarantee that it would be reciprocated;  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)  Self sacrifice is never flashy or grand – it doesn’t sparkle like a diamond and you can’t take happy vacation pictures of it.  Love diminishes the flesh, excoriates the soul and sets the spirit free.  Love costs.

     This kind of selfless love does exist and is expressed in many different kinds of relationships – between husband and wife, father and son, mother and daughter, friend and friend.  It is patterned after God’s love for us – it is self sacrificing love.  The cost of this love, if you choose to give it, is your self;  “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)  Sacrifice of self for your friend, your brother or spouse is often paid in small parts over time adding up to a lifetime of love;  “If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. ” (1 John 3: 17,18 NLT)  This love is authentic and authenticating.

     The Holy Bible gives the definitive description of love:  “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)  This is not the adolescent love that many feel entitled to.  This is not Hollywood love.  This kind of love practised over time makes a man – makes an adult.  It is the kind of love that matures;  “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.  So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  (1 Corinthians 13:11-13)

     This kind of love has a cost.  It cost God;  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)