"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent
his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 1 John 4:10
Later in life, I heard the counter-argument that we should say “I love you” as often and as many times as possible. Better to say “I love you” too much than too little, right? As soon as I heard this theory, I knew I agreed with it as well. We don’t know when our last day will come and it is a blessing to be sure that when we leave this earth, our loved ones will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that we love them.
However, after I became a high school teacher, I saw more and more the words “I love you” being used in a way that demeaned them, deprived them of their deep and powerful meaning. Among my students, “I love you” has become as common as expressions like “OMG”, “like”, and “cool”.
Now listen, I’m not going to go on a rant about how we shouldn't say things like “I love pizza” or “I love some famous celebrity I've never met” (*cough* I love Colin Morgan *cough*) because the truth is I’ve said things like this far too often and probably in the same sentence… but that’s not the point. No, the point of this blog is that when I see these 16-18 year-old teenagers texting and commenting things like, “i love you :)”, “luv u!”, etc.... It makes me wonder. All these little comments on the surface are, I’m sure, truly meant to be sweet and thoughtful…
Yet, I have to ponder to myself, what do these students mean when they send things like that? When a teenage boy comments to a teenage girl “love you more!!!” Do they really have any concept of what love is? Because meanwhile I’m sitting here at 23 years of age thinking to myself “I don’t even know what love is… so how do they?”
In order to try and process this... I had to ask myself a different question.
What is my definition of love? At the core of what I think and believe there must have be some sort of qualifying idea of what love is. The answer came surprisingly fast.
My definition of love is a prince choosing to leave behind a perfect home, a place of goodness, power, peace, and majesty in order to come to an evil, dark, and death-ridden earth. This prince left his home all in order to die a brutal, falsely-condemned death with the purpose of sparing and saving generations of lost people. That prince, Jesus Christ, showed his love by paying the price of all, facing the darkness of Hell and Satan in order to preserve a people who all too often have turned their back on Him. That is my core definition of love. The Bible reads, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends” (John 15:13). Later in Romans the author writes, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus considered us friends even when we chose to be strangers, even enemies, to Him. It’s such a simple concept, such an easy passage to think… but to truly process this love? To truly search your heart for what this really means? Can you imagine that love?
That being said, like my earthly father, people may hear “I love you” less from my lips then they would like to. The times I say it will never be in joke, fear, pressure, or swift salutation. When I tell someone I love them, I hope they realize what that really means for me. My love is cannot fleeting because it is backed by the eternal and holy God of love.
At the end of the day though, what it really comes down to is; to me, love isn’t about an emotion, a feeling, a simple remark of how important someone is. When I say “I love you,” I recognize that my love needs to be an action. I’m not merely meaning jumping in front of a bullet for someone. I’m speaking of how I choose to live my life… my love is in that. I believe that I should SHOW you I love you long before you ever hear me say it out loud. My actions should say “I love you” first.
In conclusion, when I see and hear young people throwing out “I love you” in the same pattern that they throw out hashtags and “lols”... so nonchalant and meaningless, I’m not going to be angry about it. Instead, I’m going to let it remind me that I want my “I love you” to mean soooo much more than a simple expression of endearment. I want my “I love you” to echo a willingness to serve, to listen, to trust, to put you first, to never give up, and most of all a willingness to love through sacrifice.
Therefore, my challenge to my readers is this:
What is your definition of love? How are your actions echoing this definition?
Lastly, how is your “I love you” reflecting the God who said it to you first?
"We love because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19