The following is written by East-West’s Executive Vice President of Ministry Engagement.
In the history of mankind, this may be the 8-billionth article written on the meaning of love. The “meanings” and definitions of love vary greatly and range from ridiculous to the sublime, but mostly ridiculous.
According to the film Love Story, “love means you never have to say you’re sorry.”
Hollywood would say something along the lines of “love is the tingling feeling you get when you first meet someone exciting, sexy, and beautiful.”
Our American culture believes “love is what you uncontrollably ‘fall in to’ when you meet someone you adore.”
From the perspective of science, “love is the positive feeling generated by the mingling of compatible pheromones of two mammals in close physical proximity to each other.”
Ben Bost of the Love and Transformation Institute says love is “to know, want, and do what is in the best interests of another person.”
I think this last definition is brilliant. Now, I will quickly say that love certainly has emotional, romantic, and sexual components, but for a sheer essence, core-of-the-matter definition, Ben Bost’s definition is brilliant.
In order to truly love someone, I must know what is in their best interests. I must discern their best interests based on biblical values and standards. I must discern their best interests based on knowing them well and conversing with them skillfully and listening to them authentically. I must have the wisdom to know that what they believe is in their best interests may not indeed be in their best interests.
Loving someone means knowing what is in their best interests.
In order to truly love someone, I must want what is in their best interests. Their best interests must matter to me. High quality love involves a heart of being “for” the other person, and not simply a bootstrap willfulness to do for the person what you know they need, but what you don’t particularly care if they have. Real love involves a motivational level desire to help them.
Loving someone means wanting what is in their best interests.
In order to truly love someone, I must do what is in their best interests. I must act and often I must act at personal expense, personal inconvenience, and personal sacrifice. There is no declaration that is more false, phony, thin, and offensive than “I love you!” when it is not substantiated by acting in the person’s best interest.
Loving someone means doing what is in their best interests.
In order to truly love someone, I must be laser focused on their best interests rather than on my own best interests. Left to my natural self, I think very obsessively about and act very continually for my personal best interests. It is an act of Spirit-control and spiritual maturity to shift the natural focus of my life from my own best interests to the best interests of another person or group.
As the Apostle Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit said, “do not look out for your own interests only, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
Loving someone means putting their best interests ahead of your own.
Here is the penultimate example of knowing, wanting, and doing what is in the best interests of another person. No example can rise above this one.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” -John 3:16
God knew we were helpless and hopeless—heading rapidly for an eternity of pain, darkness, depression, isolation, and misery—and that we needed a substitute, a Savior.
God wanted to provide this need for us. He wanted to provide this for us so badly that He was willing to give His only Son to die in our place, instead of us. He ached to help us. He did not pursue our best interests out of a bootstrap sense of duty.
God did indeed act. He gave the Boy! Truthfully, He could not declare His love for every human who would ever exist if He did not act on their behalf. God put our best interests above His best interests.
The cross is the greatest example of love there will ever be.
Many great acts imitate this act of love. But nothing approaches this act of love in height or depth or width or beauty or expense. Nothing comes close.
So, here is a pivotal question.
What is in the best interests of a lost person living in spiritual darkness—having neither Christian neighbor or Bible or nearby church or gospel radio broadcast or gospel literature or any access to the good news about the sacrifice of Jesus for us?
I would answer that the very best interest of this person in the pitch blackness of spirituality is to hear very accurately the good news about Jesus’ sacrifice for them and about His invitation to be forgiven through trust in Him.
Here then is another question: How do I love that person well?
I would answer that I give, go, send, and pray—at personal expense—to bring the good news to them. This is how I love them. I know, want, and do what is in their best interests—even at personal cost to myself.
Today I want to leave you with a few questions:
What is in the best interests of your spouse?
What is in the best interests of your child?
What is in the best interests of your parent?
What is in the best interests of your neighbor?
What is in the best interests of your friend?
What is in the best interests of your greatest enemy?