Season: 8 Episode: 116
We’ve all heard the saying, “Love is love” and God wants us to love. it’s the greatest way to shut someone up who might be saying something you don’t agree with. But what do people mean by love? That’s the question we must define. Shanda breaks down what love is and what it isn’t in today’s episode.
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Hey guys! Welcome back to another episode of Her Faith Inspires podcast where we take cultural issues and align them to Biblical truth. Don’t forget to follow me on YouTube where I post 5-min videos explaining short theological concepts. Just search my name: Shanda Fulbright and you will find my channel.
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Ok, I have a great show for you today.
We are talking about love.
I’ve done an episode on love before but what I really want to tackle today is love defined by culture versus love defined by God. Is it different? Is it the same? And most importantly, how do we know?
We hear lots of things about love in our culture today. Let me give you a few examples from the hashtags used on Instagram alone:
- Love = # is used 2.1 billion times
- Love is love = # is used 42.4 million times
- And Love yourself = # used 94.4 million times
- Love yourself first = # used 2.4 million times
- God is love = # used 4.1 million times
These probably aren’t surprising to you because they’re not surprising to me, however, we can glean other information from these hashtags that tell us how culture defines love. Let’s start with the one that has the most # out of these 5 … love. Just plain old love.
People want it, they need it, they were created to give it. However, that doesn’t mean they know what it means. What is love? How do you show love? How do you identify whether or not someone truly loves you our whether you love someone else?
Well, when it comes to our culture, people aren’t asking those questions.
If they were, the second most used # would not be love yourself, and at 94.4 million hashtags and growing, this one is second only to the blanket # of love.
This is more telling to me. We know the first and greatest commandment in the Bible right? You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
But do you know how many times the # for love your neighbor is used? A mere 361,000 times. Love God is 1.2 million, so I searched the # love God first and that was less … at 43.9 thousand.
Listen, you might be thinking, “Shanda! This is Instagram. This isn’t the real world.” Yes, it is the real world because our world is online now. That’s how we communicate and function. It’s what we highlight and draw attention to. That’s why this is so revealing. Our culture is all about loving ourselves, not loving God and not loving our neighbor.
We want love. Don’t forget, we’ve #love 2.1 billion times.
But we do not know what love is because the winning # is love yourself and unfortunately, many Christians believe we are supposed to love before we can give love to anyone else. I am not going to continue to plow the same fields, so if you want to listen to my episode called The Self-love lie and my episode with Brooke Tabor called Dying to self – the battle of too much self love, go check those out if you haven’t.
Paul told Timothy that in the last days people will be lovers of themselves. That is one of the signs of the last days. When you see these signs, know that Christ’s coming is closer than ever. And if the # aren’t a sign of that, maybe the selfies will convince you.
The third most used # out of the 5 I mentioned is love is love. What does that mean? Well, if someone came up to me and said, “Hey! Love is love.” I would ask them, “What do you mean by love?” Because all the phrase “Love is love” is meant to do is get you to accept whatever someone else thinks love is. To love who they want, how they want. But you haven’t defined love. You haven’t presented a logical argument.
Love is love is something we see often, especially in June during Pride month.
It’s become a slogan for homosexuality that implies love means I can love whomever I want and that should be okay with you because after all, it’s love and love is a good thing so how can you argue with that?
Again, God is love is # 4.1 billion times but the # love God is 1.2 million. What does this show us? We love to remind ourselves that God is love, but the message of loving God isn’t as popular. We like the message that God is love because if He’s love, He’s more tolerant and willing to accept us as we are and while that is true, God doesn’t accept our sin. And again, many of these # have to do with our receiving of love and not our giving of love. The Bible emphasizes loving God and loving neighbor. It emphasizes the giving of love to others. It never emphasizes loving ourselves. Now again, I’m not going to go into great lengths on the love yourself concept because I’ve talked about that before and I recommend going back to those episodes if you want more context on it.
What I really wanted to do by sharing these # is to evaluate them like we do data because these are # people are attaching to images they’re posting on their feeds. These are images from their every days lives, meaning that this is what is important to them and what they’re talking about amongst friends and family.
And it helps give us insight in to what the culture thinks about what love is.
So, we need to evaluate some questions today:
- What does the culture say love is?
- What does the Bible say love is?
- Why must we understand God’s definition of love?
How does our culture define love?
A few months ago, someone messaged me on IG and said, “Can you explain to me why homosexual marriage is wrong? I have lots of gay friends who are married and they have better marriages than my straight Christian friends.” She then proceeded to tell me that God just wants us to follow the 10 Commandments and she asked me to explain what love is.
There was a lot more context to her questions than that but I don’t have time to break it all down. Out of all of it, I asked her one question: From your reading of Scripture, what do you currently know about God’s definition of love?
She said a whole lot of stuff there and claimed to be Christian, yet she said God wasn’t clear about who and how to love. So, instead of me doing all the work and coming up with some long explanation that she probably wouldn’t accept, I started with what she knew by asking her to tell me what she knew.
This is why I highly suggest the book Tactics by Greg Koukl.
It helps me stay out of the weeds on many a conversation. Because at the heart of her question, she just wanted to know about love, right? Not the 10 Commandments, but love.
So she responded to my question by going back to the 10 Commandments and how we’re supposed to follow them and none of it made a lot of sense. Then I asked her, “What does the Bible say love is?”
She said, “Agape, filial, eros.”
I said, “No. Those are types of love. What is love according to the bible?”
She couldn’t answer. And she claimed to be a Christian. And that’s the problem. When we can’t answer the question as Christians, the question turns on us and can become a snare we get caught up in. That’s what’s happing in our culture. Christians can’t answer basic questions about God and we begin to take on cultures understanding of Him.
It shouldn’t be so.
The culture doesn’t get to define something they stole from God, and yes, love belongs to God because He is love. Culture is redefining love and it isn’t working. They hi-jacked the word love and they are trying to change the definition to suit their own desires. If culture says, “Love is love” it just means, “I can love whomever I want and you can’t tell me otherwise.”
We use the word love when we talk about a soda. “I love Dr. Pepper” or “I love eating donuts for breakfast.” We’ve diluted it. We’ve taken the act of making love and we call it hooking up or sleeping around.
Culture throws the word love around by using it for things we enjoy watching, like to eat, or for people we barely know. We use it in exchange for words like … enjoy, like, or appreciate, when it means so much more than that.
Our divorce rate in the US shows love is easy to throw by the wayside.
If you find you don’t love someone anymore, get a divorce. If you think you love them, live with them and don’t commit. Yet, we know by the hashtags that love is very important to people.
The problem with cultures view of love is that it is connected to self-actualization and self-realization. It’s about someone who completes me, not me giving my love to someone else. Love is all about what someone else does for me.
Hollywood goes through relationships like I go through toilet paper. And if they’ve been together for a long time, People magazine runs a front page headliner on the couple who has it all together. Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt were so in love. But then Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie fell in love. But then they fell out of love.
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were really in love. But then Ben Affleck married Jennifer Garner and she loved him so much he quit his bad boy lifestyle. But then they fell out of love and now he and J Lo are back in love. I think. Unless something changed since last week and that’s possible.
What’s my point? This is not love. Culture defines love based on selfish desires and ambition. That’s why the second most used hashtag in relation to love is love yourself. Culture defines love by what the individual loves. That pretty much sums it up.
What does the Bible say love is?
God is the origin of love. The Bible tells us God is love. That means God cannot love you more or less than He does right now. He is infinite and that means His love is not measurable.
I talked about this before, but the English language doesn’t take some of the Hebrew and Greek words to their fullest meaning. We have one word for love, while the Greek word for love has several different types. So, we use “love” for spouses, children, friends, food, our pets. But the Greek specifies the different types of love for these things.
I talked about this in episode 15: Is it love or is it lust. And I go into great detail about the different types of love. But what I really want to do today is go back to what the Bible says love is and that’s that it originates with God.
What I really want to do in this episode is show you the pattern of love in Scripture which is God’s love toward us first and then our responsibility in showing love.
First, God’s love originates toward us. We cannot love Him. Here’s our biblical examples of this:
- “We love Him because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19. God projects His love toward us. He pursued us. He went looking for Adam and Eve, they didn’t go looking for God. If you love God, that’s only because He loved you first. If you don’t love God, that’s only because He loves you so much He gave you freewill. Love requires freewill, otherwise it’s not love.
2. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. Notice the beginning of this verse: God demonstrated His love for us by dying for us while we were sinners. You can also say it this way: He died for us when we didn’t love Him. No sinner loves God.
This is in contrast to cultures version of love because we love those who bring out the best in us. We love those who aren’t toxic. But not God. He loved us at our worst.
3. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13-14. Here the Bible tells us love is self-sacrificing. Again, this is counter-cultural. Culture says we should be with people who sacrifice for us but God says we should sacrifice for others. And this goes both ways. We first see this as an example of Jesus laying down His life for us. And now we are to do the same for others.
So let’s list this out:
God loved us first.
He loved us while we were sinners.
He showed love by laying down His life for us.
What is our responsibility in showing love?
First, we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. It’s the greatest commandment. We see this in the OT and repeated by Jesus in the new. It is the foundation of the Christian life. It’s not just to love God, it is to love Him with all that we are.
Love acts. We show love to God. Have you ever thought of that? We show love to God by action. Jesus said this in John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commands.” A person who loves God will do what God has commanded in His word.
So, that means we love God with the mind by reading and studying His word so that we know what He has commanded.
We love Him with all of our hearts by hiding His word in our hearts so we don’t sin against Him as David said.
We love Him with all of our strength by enduring temptation with patience. Do you see how this all ties together? Loving God has nothing to do with my own desires. In fact, I have to deny my desires in order to fulfill Christ’s commands because in many ways they go against my human nature.
Why? Because Jesus’ commands is to love my neighbor as myself.
Whoa. Love my neighbor? What if they’re toxic, Lord? Jesus said, “If you love Me you’ll obey My commandments.” What are His commandments in regard to our neighbors?
Luke 6 says this, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. (does IG have a # for love those who love you back?). And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to eyou? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
I had to stop right her as I was composing this script and search the # love your enemies.
I was pretty impressed. It has 53.2k. That’s not too bad. I mean, it’s not nearly the 94.4 million that the love yourself # has but I thought it wasn’t going to be there at all.
This is counter cultural. It’s hard to love those who don’t love you back. It’s hard to be friends with people who don’t want to be your friend. Trust me. I’m the type of person that will just be like .. See ya! You don’t want to be my friend, I’m outie!
I hope you’re starting to see that biblical love has nothing to do with selfish gain. God’s love is sufficient enough for you. You will never get enough love by loving yourself. We must reflect on God’s love for us, His purpose for us, His care for the way He loves us … He says you are of more value than many sparrows. He sent His Son …. Jesus gladly laid aside His glory and took on flesh for you. He said if you were the only one, He would go find you. What more do we need?
Our culture is working harder for nothing. They will come up empty by trying to love themselves when God has all they need.
Why must we understand God’s definition of love?
I’ve shared the mental health stats of kids and adults since the pandemic began. The dependency on anti-anxiety and depression medication. That’s all in episode 92, ‘How to control your thoughts so anxiety doesn’t control you.” I believe, but don’t have any scientific data on this, that many people are so big on loving themselves because they don’t have the self-worth they wish they had. And if you don’t have God, you don’t understand how loved you are.
When we don’t understand God’s definition of love, we end up giving it a distorted definition which means we have a distorted understanding of it. And that’s what the enemy likes to do. He’s good at taking what God has made good and distorting it so that it sounds good but doesn’t fulfill.
When we don’t understand God’s definition of love, we end up trying to make up for what we’re missing and that which we will never be able to provide by adopting the love yourself message. This causes us to do what we want, follow the desires we think will make us happy and live our best life. But it reminds me of the woman in John 4 who went though 6 husbands and a live in boyfriend, went to a well at noon (which was an odd time of day and likely because she was avoiding her towns people), and clung to a well thousands of years old because it had ties to Jacob – the patriarch of Israel – because it made her feel significant.
Nothing is new under that sun.
If we substitute God’s definition of love for our definition of love we will get caught in a cycle the doesn’t satisfy. She was in a failing cycle of relationships. She was in a routine of coming to a well every day at a certain time that many scholars believe meant she was avoiding her towns people because of shame. The Samaritan woman was stuck because she didn’t understand. She was trying to make up for her lack and it will never happen.
Jesus first told her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have give you living water.’” If you knew – is the phrase to hone in on. When we don’t know, we don’t ask. And all God has to offer starts with accepting His gift. That includes accepting His love. He loved you while you were a sinner.
That’s why Jesus said He had to go through Samaria.
The Samaritans were already despised by the Jews because they weren’t full Jews. But Jesus righted her thinking about who God is. He said in verse 13, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but kwhoever drinks of the water that I will give him lwill never be thirsty again.2 The water that I will give him will become min him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Again, the word doesn’t know God do it doesn’t understand His love. But Jesus died for the world. Remember, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will no perish but have eternal life.”
Belief and knowing are synonymous. You can’t believe unless you know. Or you shouldn’t anyway.
If God died for the sinner, It can’t get worse than that and that means it also doesn’t get better. We live in cancel culture and a culture of unforgiveness. But God doesn’t work like that. And when we don’t know how God defines love we will flow with culture and call it love. Don’t be deceived. No one and nothing can match the love God has for you.
I want to close this up today by reminding you that God’s love is counter-cultural. It asks a lot of us. It asks us to love others sacrificially because we love God. God’s love doesn’t tell us to evaluate how others love us. It doesn’t tell us to make sure people treat us right. It doesn’t tell us that we should hold people to a standard of love and make sure we live our best life by keeping toxic people out.
If the world truly loved the way God does, it would look a lot different. But it starts with you and it starts with me.
If you have any questions about this or anything else, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll catch you on the next one.