Love is in the air! With Valentine’s day fast approaching, everybody is talking about love. This small word with big meaning is used to describe more than just our relationships. People often talk about loving pizza, loving pets, loving presidents, and loving presents. I’m willing to bet you and I have been guilty of throwing the word “love” around as carelessly as pennies in a Walmart parking lot. Could it be that our haphazard tossing of the word “love” about is hurting our families by watering down the deep bonds we desire to convey when we say “I love you?”
It is true, we have confused “love” with the word “like.” For a family strengthening session, consider have a dinner time conversation distinguishing between the two words. “Like” is a word we use to talk about something that serves us or something that makes us happy. Pizza is a great example here. I’m happy every time I bite into that gooey cheese, crunch onto that salty pepperoni, and chew through that delicious crust. I like pizza because it does something for me. Yet I don’t do a thing, give anything, or sacrifice anything for pizza.
Your love involves less of what something or someone does for you, but is instead more tied to what you do or give to someone else. I have a tool that can help us keep on the straight and narrow concerning true love. Some Jews and Christians consider Hebrew to be the first language through which God spoke in creating the world. Here’s the skinny about love from Hebrew. Please pardon me while I get a little nerdy for a moment from my years of translating Greek and Hebrew in college. Our English word “love” is in Hebrew “ahavah,” which is made of four basic Hebrew letters “AHVH” (aleph-hei-vav-hei). I think it is possible the root of the word of “ahavah” is the simply the two consonants “HV” (hei-vav), which mean “to give.” The word “AHAVAH” (love) is used over 40 times and often talks about sacrificial, giving love. When you add the “A” (aleph) on the front of “HV” to make it “AHV” you get the Hebrew phrase, “I WAS GIVING” or “I AM GIVING.”
Thus, from my word studies, I believe the word “love” in one of our oldest languages originally has roots in the phrase “I give.” You can find this word used in Genesis 29:20 after Jacob has “given” seven years of his life for Rachel, “And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the LOVE (AHAVAH) he had to her.” You can also find it in 1 Kings 10:9 stating “The Lord LOVED Israel forever” and “Hatred stirs up strife, but LOVE covers all sins.” (Proverbs 10:12)
As you can see, love in ancient language seems to be regularly connected with sacrificially giving to others as Jacob did for Rachel, as the Lord did for Israel, and as Jesus does for us in our sin today.
My relationship with my wife is evidence of that giving type of love. Seventeen years ago, I had the perfect setting to propose: a blanket in the park, comfort food, mood music, a bouquet of roses, and a ring hidden inside one of the flowers. While the sappy music about love was playing, I dropped to one knee, grabbed the rose with the ring…. and panicked! The ring wasn’t in the rose! She saw the look on my face and knew I had botched this one. I intended to give her a gift of love, but I lost it. I began frantically searching the grass around us looking for that precious symbol of love that had fallen out of the rose! For what seemed like an eternity, we hunted through the grass, the flowers, and the trunk of the car. Eventually, I found that precious gift of love, got down on one knee again, and at sunset, she said “Yes!”
How did I know I loved her? It was because I was willing to give her my hard-earned pay, my time, my effort, and my heart all symbolized in that proposal. I also know I was willing to continue giving those things to her for the rest of my life.
How do I know she loved me? Jesus spoke of love this way in Luke 7 when talking about a woman who was a sinner, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
The best evidence of my beautiful bride’s love for me is what she gave this blundering idiot that evening in a Nashville park. Even though I had botched the perfect proposal, she gave me her gifts of forgiveness and then gave me her heart forever.
True love is different from intensely liking something. We like things because of pleasure they give to us. Yet, true love is deeper, connecting more to the choice of sacrificial giving you do for them.
What does that mean for us in our families? As leaders, it is up to us to set the proper standard for what love is. Perhaps our kids would best be served if we use our word “LOVE” when we are talking about giving to someone rather than just enjoying something. This Valentine’s Day, give a gift to someone you love, whether a spouse, friend, child, or neighbor. You’ll be glad you did. “We LOVE because He first LOVED us.” - John 4:19