Far More Than a Secondhand Emotion

In 1984 Tina Turner recorded the song, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” With a catchy tune (my apologies if you’ve got it stuck in your head now) and a few clever lyrics, she won three Grammy awards and was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. At the center of the song we find a definition of love. According to Turner, love is a “secondhand emotion” that tends to attach itself inconveniently to sensual desires. Toward the end of the song she also adds that love is a “sweet old-fashioned notion.”

Other descriptions of love have been given to us by the world since 1984, usually in song format, and many of them have shaped our understanding of love. (Just Google “Top 100 Love Songs” for some doozies.) Some of us may have even begun our marriage relationships with a wrong understanding of love. Often when we say, "I love you," we mean, "I love me. And I want you." But Christians can discover and know what real love is—because the Bible defines love for us.

After twenty-three years of marriage, there are days when I feel I’m only just beginning to understand love. I loved my husband, Kevin, very much the day I married him, but it was a love not yet tested. It was beautifully fresh and full of emotion but lacked sturdiness and depth. It was a love that still said, "I love me, and I want you" more often than not. Daily I have to put off false love and put on the love that God requires me to give my husband.

Love that seeks its own isn't the makings of love that endures. Love must move past the "in love" beginning that most of us begin with toward a love that keeps going when feelings aren't there. Committed love does right even when one doesn’t feel right. Being "in love" with Kevin was what stirred me to pledge my life and faithfulness to him. But this quiet, sturdy, spirit-enabled love is what drives me to keep that promise.

Unnatural Love

Exactly how do we give this committed love? This is what I am learning—because marriage is work. We have to be deliberate in working on it, no matter how long we've been married. We must receive it from Christ before we are able to give it to others. When we grasp Christ’s perfect love for us, we can seek to imitate that love to others—especially my husband, whose faults I am so well-acquainted with. We don't have to manufacture the love; we only share the love we've been shown.

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 Cor. 13:4–7).

First Corinthians 13 has been called “the hymn of love.” Many of us may quote it or put it to memory. I have some of the verses written in calligraphy and framed. But this passage cannot be fully treasured when it is taken out of context. The full impact and depths of the truths it contains are missed if you isolate it from the rest of the book.

The Corinthian Christians were not walking in the Spirit. They were selfish, fault-finding believers who looked down on others whom they perceived had less knowledge or gifts than themselves. They had little regard for others but much for themselves. They didn't lack any gift but were terribly deficient in spiritual fruit. And their greatest lack was love. The thirteenth chapter is like inhaling fresh air after twelve chapters of reproofs and corrections as Paul points out all the errors of this church.

The love of 1 Corinthians 13 that Christians are required to give to others is a self-giving love. It is love that costs something. It is more concerned with "What can I give?' rather than "What can I get from this relationship?" It is completely unnatural to human nature.

The only supreme, perfect example we have of this love is God's love. Because love is, above all, sacrificial. God so loved us that He sacrificed His son. And Jesus loved to the fullest degree when He submitted to the redemptive plan of the Father. He loved us to the very limits of love.

An Act of the Will

Love is not just a feeling or a “secondhand emotion.” It is an act of the will that will always result in a giving action. Biblical love is only defined in the person and work of Jesus Christ, revealed in the Bible, and enabled by the Spirit of God. Feelings, emotions, and physical attractions are wonderful gifts. They can accompany love but they are not love. The agape love of 1 Corinthians 13 has nothing to do with physical attraction, desire, or even affection. It is a blessed manifestation of God.

This is the only way to a love that lasts. By identifying with the character of God (because you are born of God), you love like God, sharing with undeserving people, what you undeservingly received yourself:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. . . . So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 John 4:7, 16).

Lately, I have heard of brides and grooms washing one another's feet at their wedding ceremony. I think that is a beautiful picture. At the Last Supper, Jesus' disciples sat around arguing about which of them were the greatest. As He was anticipating the agony of the cross, they were selfish and insensitive. His response was to wash their feet, to demonstrate that love is an act of the will from one who has nothing to gain from it for the benefit of someone else who in no way is deserving of it.

What about you? What is your greatest hindrance to sacrificial love? Do you feel you have grasped the depths and heights of God’s love to you when He sacrificed His Son for you? What is your favorite Scripture about God’s love for you?  

Did you discover God’s Truth today?

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About the Author

Bambi Moore

Bambi Moore

Bambi is a sinner saved by grace, a pastor's wife, and a mom to ten children aged one to twenty-one. She lives in Texas where she drinks lots of coffee, reads books, makes a home, and changes diapers for the glory of God.

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