When You Love, Expect Nothing
Love is measured not by how it makes us feel but rather by what it costs us.
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On February 14, women everywhere receive flowers and candy boxes and are taken out for fancy dinners. Children hand out heart-shaped cards, and everyone wishes their favorite teacher happy Valentine's Day. Truly, love is in the air.
Or is it? Is what we commonly call "love" really love, or is it a cheap imitation of the real thing?
St. John the Apostle defines love for us in this way: "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). The Apostle Paul likewise explains: "But God commendeth His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:10).
These two verses set before us the stark reality that love is measured not by how it makes us feel but rather by what it costs us. Very often our attempts to "love" others are really guided more by what we think we will get back rather than how the other will benefit from our loving actions.
The deal we make is simple: "If I do this, buy you flowers, take you out for dinner, say nice and kind words to you, then you will respond to my love by being nice to me, by sitting romantically with me by the fire, by being affectionate, etc." Whatever we want, we think we can get by showing "love."
How we respond when we don't get back what we want after we have shown "love" reveals the true nature of our actions. If we become angry, bitter, resentful, hurt, depressed, manipulative, etc., then we have not truly loved, but rather have used love to serve our own purposes.
While He was on earth, the Lord Jesus attempted to reveal to His disciples the true nature of love both by His actions and through His words. "When you throw a dinner party," He instructed them, "do not invite those who can return the favor by inviting you back to their house for an equally delicious dinner. Instead, invite the poor, the maimed, the homeless. Reach out in love to those who cannot repay you. Then you will know the true meaning of love."
Of course, Jesus does not mean that it is wrong to buy our wives flowers, or to give our children and friends gifts. Jesus is using this example to drive much deeper. He is addressing His words to the deep sickness of our souls. He is attempting to throw light on the deeply ingrained self-love that permeates every one of our thoughts and actions. The great tragedy of our human existence is that we care far too much about ourselves. And we expect far too much from those who are close to us.