Cynthia Montello Ministries

What Is Love?

What Is Love?

We just came out of February, the official month of Love. I preached this message twice, once to women in a homeless shelter and once to teenage girls in jail.

I knew God wanted me to write about love, but I had the hardest time putting it into words. Love is so incredibly complex. The whole time I was writing, songs kept popping into my head. “What is love? Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.” Or “What the world needs now, is love sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”

Love is the most powerful emotion a person can experience. It’s a force of nature. Love can lift us to the greatest heights, or dash us to the deepest pit. It can melt our heart or break our heart. Love can’t be bought, sold or controlled. Love is the inspiration for artists, authors and musicians. Love is something we crave from our earliest memories to our last.

Besides food, shelter, water and air, Love is the one thing we all need. There is scientific proof that children who grow up in an environment deprived of love and physical touch, or in an abusive environment, are affected negatively in every single area of their body and mind that can last the entire span of their lifetime.

When teachers, parents, or caregivers use shame or humiliation as a tool to manage behavior, it instills toxic thoughts in a child’s mind and creates a warped sense of who they are. It can breed feelings of worthlessness, self-hate and insecurity. Then you find yourself on this lifelong path of believing that you are damaged goods and you view love through a warped lens.

I have astigmatism in both eyes. Without glasses, I see everything warped. This is how people deprived of love and touch, see themselves and the world around them and not as God intended.

For many years I was attracted to the worst men. Because of my own abandonment issues, I always seemed to find men who treated me badly, because that’s all I knew of love. True love, real love was something that escaped me, because I was viewing love through that warped lens.

The heart has always been a symbol for love because we feel love in our chest. When love hurts, it hurts in our heart. When love is amazing, our heart beats bigger and stronger and we can barely contain how we feel. You never forget what a broken heart feels like. In contrast, nothing feels quite like the way you feel when you are head over heels in love, like your heart is going to explode. Love is certainly a powerful emotion.

There are 8 types of love:

Storge:  The love you share with your family, parents and children

Philia:  The love that you have for friends. This is Love without physical desire.

Eros:  Love with sexual passion and desire.

Ludus:  Playful love, like flirting, first love or childlike love.

Mania: Obsessive love leading to desperation, possessiveness and jealousy – unhealthy love.

Pragma:  Long standing, mature love like in marriage.

Philautia:  The love of one’s self in its healthiest form. This is a person who has truly learned to love who they are and can extend that love to others. This is not an unhealthy love such as in Narcissism. Narcissism is someone who is obsessively interested in their own appearance and self-love, and craves admiration.

Agape: This is unconditional love, or divine love.

There is one more type of love, but not really love but deep appreciation. It’s related to our love for things, like shoes, nature or chocolate.

The apostle Paul described love as this: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails. 1 Cor 13:4-8

There is only one source for love and that is God, because God is love. Love is God’s design. It is His gift to us. It is the foundation for His entire plan. Everything He has done, and all that He will ever do for mankind is out of love. Love is what connects us to God and us to Him. Love is what connects us to one another. LOVE. The Bible is the most beautiful love story of all.

Throughout the Bible there are images of God displaying His love for us and reaching out to help us.

  • A shepherd leaving his entire flock to go save the one on the edge of a cliff.
  • A father setting aside his anger and dignity and running to welcome home his son who rejected him and squandered all of his inheritance.
  • Jesus encouraging a Samaritan woman at the well and helping her to see who she truly was through His eyes.
  • Jesus comforting a thief as they hang side by side on the cross dying.
  • Jesus noticing a poverty-stricken widow and praising her generosity.
  • Jesus reaching out to touch the hand of a leper who was an outcast.
  • Friends who lowered a man through a roof so he could be healed by Jesus.
  • Jesus saving an adulterous woman from being stoned to death as he pointed out the sinfulness of the crowd.
  • A woman who recognized the Savior of mankind and washed Jesus’ feet with perfume and her tears.
  • A little boy who shared his lunch so Jesus could feed 5,000 people.
  • Jesus who raised one of his closest friends, Lazarus, from the dead and gave him new life.
  • Jesus washing the feet of his own disciples to demonstrate love and humility.

I could go on and on with examples of love from God’s Word, but the greatest love of all, the greatest gift God ever gave us, was His Son Jesus.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

God loved us so much that He manifested Himself in the flesh as Jesus to be born into this world to live as one of us. Only the greatest love could have willingly and knowingly given us a child who would ultimately die a torturous, brutal and public death and provide a way for our sins to be forgiven. There is no greater image of love anywhere than that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

God reached out to us in love and Jesus reaches out to all of us and changes us through love. This is God’s plan. The cross remains a constant symbol for us, and a source of inspiration, as God reached out to us and sent His Son to earth, and in turn, Jesus reached out to each of us to embrace this world. Now it’s our turn. When we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are filled with His love and we are changed. In turn, we reach out to each other to share that love and our world changes for good. It’s like love going viral!

It is God’s greatest command: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

Loving our neighbors as ourselves is a very key phrase here because this is where the rubber meets the road. Only a person who has truly learned to love who they are can extend love to others. You can’t share what you don’t have. How can you encourage, love and lift others up if you have feelings of worthlessness or shame?

We were made in the image of God. No matter what we do to mess up our lives, that image cannot change in God’s eyes. He still sees us as His creation and the object of his love. But in our eyes, our image becomes distorted because of sin. We don’t see ourselves as God sees us anymore. We see ourselves through the tainted vision of sin and destruction, warped by pain and brokenness.

God wants us to love and value ourselves. He intended for us to care very much about who we are. After all, we are the physical embodiment of Jesus Christ. Our bodies are the temple of the Lord. We are the church. We have to care about ourselves, and our bodies. Loving ourselves means we take care of our body, our health, our heart and our mind. Pouring drugs or alcohol into our bodies, stealing, being hateful to others, or giving ourselves away as if we’re nothing, is active rebellion against our own life. It is also a physical and outward sign that we reject the true life God had planned for us. God never intended for us to destroy our lives because of anger, hatred, jealousy, or resentment to result in addiction or self-destruction.

Contrary to what the devil would have you think, God is not malicious or hateful. He doesn’t pay you back for sin, or seek revenge when you fail. He doesn’t get angry when you make the wrong choices and He doesn’t throw you away. God doesn’t turn His back on you when you turn your back on Him.  As long as the devil can keep you convinced that you are powerless against the circumstances you face, you will continue to be weak and broken and you will not see the true path God set aside for you.

In my senior year of high school, I was in a classroom alone with a teacher and I was yelling at her and telling her how much I hated her. She pushed me up against the wall and in my face she said, “You are only hurting yourself with all this anger and rage. When I leave here, I go home to my happy life and my wonderful husband and kids, and my life doesn’t change at all because of you. But you carry that rage with you everywhere you go and you will destroy your own life because of it. You have a choice right now.”

I never forgot her words and even though it took many more years for me to find Jesus and let go of anger, I think of her often and how right she was. It was my choice. I can choose hate and rebellion, or I can choose love and life.  Even after I got saved, it took years for me to see myself differently, to truly believe I was loved, to know that I was forgiven for my sins and to be able to forgive those who hurt me. It doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes faith, it takes surrender, and it takes seeking after God with a passion. It takes Love. You do have a choice as to how your life goes. You can choose to let go of the past and the pain and let God fill you with His love and heal you, or you can choose to hold on to all of that baggage and drag it around with you.

God is love. There is nothing He loves more than you. It is His greatest desire to redeem as many as possible back to Him and He does it all through love. The truest act of love is that God gave His only Son Jesus to die for us, and not because we were perfect.

Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

You have to know inside and out and beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are truly and deeply loved by God and hold on to that! You have to know that Jesus is walking through this life with you, not behind you cleaning up the mess, but preparing the way for you and blessing you. You need to know that you were uniquely designed and created by God for a specific purpose. You each have a unique path laid out for you so don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

Loving one another takes practice and the more you love and value yourself, the more love you’ll have for others. Be kind to one another, value each other even if you don’t agree on everything. The more you love, the more love will grow in you. It’s simply contagious.

Jesus was only alive 33 years before he was put to death. Jesus’ ministry lasted only 3 ½ years, yet almost 2,000 years later there are 2.3 billion Christians in the world. How can it be that 2.3 billion people believe in a man who died young and was only in ministry a few years? Because LOVE always prevails. Love will always win.

You were created in love and you are loved beyond measure. Go to God in confidence and pray with power and receive Jesus as your Savior, ask God to forgive you of all your sins. Then with a pure conscience and a heart full of faith, know that God has already destroyed everything that stands between Him and us by the blood of Jesus Christ. When we do this we are free! Free to love and worship God, free to follow Jesus, free to love one another, and free to love ourselves.

Love will change you.  Love will guide you.  Love will save you.