By Ernest O'Neill

What is Real Love?

By Rev. Ernest O'Neill

Love is not getting; it is giving.  It is not even giving things.  It is not giving jewelry, presents, flowers or chocolates.  It is "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son."  Love is giving yourself.  It is giving all that you are to the other person.  We said it is giving your abilities and your aptitudes and your talents and your time and your interests for the other person to use as if they were theirs.  That is what real love is.

Actually, that is what our dear dads did.  They made available to you all the money they could earn, all the talents they had, all the love they had, and they said, "It is yours, son, to use as you please."  That is what they did for us.  Real love is giving yourself to the other person -- all your abilities, all your talents --and letting them use them as they want for their own sake.

You can't get away from the truth that is in John 15:13.  It is the classic definition of love.  "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."  Love is not loving other people as much as you love yourself; otherwise, there would be a real battle there.  "Will I lay down my own life or will I lay down their life?  Now I've just to love them as much as I love myself."  If love is: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends", it is loving them better than you love yourself, isn't it?  It is vicarious.  It comes from that Latin word "vicis", turn.  It means putting them in your place, turning the whole thing round and putting them in your place. It means giving the same interest and attention and thoughtfulness to them as you used to give to yourself.  When Jesus died for us, He died in our place.  He died and bore what we should have borne. That is what real love is.  It is giving yourself for the other person, for their benefit, putting them in the place that you used to put yourself.  That is what we said love was about.

We all agreed, of course, that nobody could love like that. None of us can love like that unless we are absolutely certain that there is somebody else taking care of us. That is because we are little animals with a built-in self-preservation instinct.  We are no fools; we are not dumb.  We realize, "Now wait a minute! If I am going to lay my brains and my intellect and my abilities at the disposal of everybody else, for their benefit, then what brains or ability or intellect are going to look after my life?"  We know that somebody must do that.  That is why we said that you can't love the rest of us the way God loves you unless you are really sure that he loves you that way.  Unless you are really sure that he is looking after your interests - -that he is going to take care of your job, or your marital future. He is going to look after your professional hopes.

Unless you are sure that he is going to do that, you really can't have the freedom to say, "Good, I'm going to forget myself. I can lay myself at the disposal of everybody else."  In other words, you can only love the rest of us the way God loves you if God puts His Spirit in your heart.  Romans 5:5 talks about the love that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. God only gives that Holy Spirit to those of us who trust him implicitly with our lives.  You really can't love the rest of us like that unless you trust your Father in heaven completely with your life.  You remember that is where we ran up against trouble.  Because most of us found that there is something inside us that was stubborn and would not trust God in that way for our marital futures or with our professional futures. There was something in us that rejected and resisted the idea of trusting God with our academic success or our financial security. There was some egocentricity inside us that would not trust God with those things lest he fail to look after them the way we wanted him to.  We tried to trust him but we couldn't trust him, because we weren't sure he would take care of them the way we wanted him to.

That is where we saw the whole purpose of Jesus' death. That egocentricity inside us that will not trust God on those things was actually crucified with Christ. That was the whole point of Jesus' death.  Romans 6:6 says our old self was crucified with Christ, and the moment we believe that, that moment God's Holy Spirit enables us to trust God as our Father and sheds abroad in our hearts love for everyone else -- a love that puts everyone else first.

I don't know if you have ever imagined what it is like.  All of us probably experienced it when we were teenagers when we went out on some project. Maybe it was the carwash or something that we were all going to do as a family.  It was one of those days when you went out and you didn't think of yourself at all. You just thought of what we all have to do as a group and you weren't trying to make a name for yourself among the rest. You just enjoyed it. So the day flew by and before you knew it, it was the end of the day and you hadn't thought of yourself once.  It was one of the happiest days you have ever had in your life. That is the way God has for us to live every day. It is possible, loved ones, to let your old self be destroyed with Jesus so that God's Spirit frees you and liberates you from self-consciousness and self-concern so that you lay all your abilities and talents at the disposal of everybody else to do everything that is needed to bring them into a real relationship with God who loves them. That is the way we were meant to live.