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Dan Augsburger
What is "True Love"


“Set me as a seal upon you heart, as a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised.” Song of Solomon 8:6,7

What is “True Love”?

We live in an age when the word “love” is used very easily—too easily! Much of the time we are using the term for something completely trivial—a car or a drink; casually—”love you” as expressed at the end of a conversation that has no actions to back it up; or to describe lustful feelings. But real, sacrificing, adoring, “other-centered” love is greatly sought after, though rare. Sometimes the word “love” is even used to manipulate and take advantage of other people.

Fortunately, there is such a thing as true love. In Song of Solomon such a love is found, and the suggestion is made that love can become so precious that all the money in the world could not induce a man or woman to give up that love. It is interesting that in that book, one finds a progressive expression of love: “My beloved is mine and I am my beloveds” (Song of Sol. 2:16); “I am my beloveds and my beloved is mine” (Song of Sol. 6:3); and finally, “I am my beloveds” (Song of Sol. 7:10)—note the last expression where the love is completely other-centered.

In 1 Corinthians 13 we  are reminded that “true love” goes beyond actions, even factoring in what motivates our love, for it states  it is possible to think we are showing love by giving all that we have, and even allowing our bodies to be burned, but still not have love—apparently because our motives are self-centered (1 Cor. 13:3).

What is the secret? Love comes from God! (1 John 4:8) and when we have godly love, it becomes the kind of love that is recorded and remembered ever after.

Apparently there are times when human beings experience the “true” kind of love, as attested to in the following notes written by John Newton to his wife Mary, who recognized that his relationship with her was a gift from God. Friends from an early age, and married after his conversion, he idolized her, and constantly wrote to her when he was separated from her. Read carefully, notice why he believed they enjoyed such a close relationship:

“You will not be displeased with me for saying, that though you are dearer to me than the aggregate of all earthly comforts, I wish to limit my passion within those bounds which God has appointed. Our love to each other ought to lead us to love him supremely, who is the author and source of all the good we possess or hope for. It is to him we owe that happiness in a marriage state which so many seek in vain, some of whom set out with such hopes and prospects, that their disappointments can be deduced for no other cause, than having placed that high regard on a creature which is only due to the Creator. He therefore withholds his blessing (without which no union can subsist) and their expectations, of course, end in indifference . . . ”

“I consider our union as a peculiar effect and gift of an indulgent Providence, and therefore, as a talent to be improved to higher ends, to the promoting of his will and service upon earth. And to assisting each other to prepare for an eternal state, to which a few years at the farthest will introduce us. Were these points wholly neglected, however great our satisfaction might be for the present, it would be better never to have seen each other; since the time must come when, of all the endearments of our connection, nothing will remain, but the consciousness how greatly we were favored, and how we improved the favors we possessed . . .”

“He formed us for each other, and his good Providence brought us together. It is no wonder if so many years, so many endearments, so many obligations, have produced an uncommon effect; and that by long habit, it is become almost impossible for me to draw a breath, of which you are not concerned. If this mutual affection leads us to this fountain from which our blessings flow, and if we can regard each other, and everything about us, with a reference to that eternity to which we are hasting, then we are happy indeed.”

“The path of few peoples through life has been more marked with peculiar mercies than yours. How differently has he led us from the way we should have chosen for ourselves! We have had remarkable turns in our affairs; but every change has been for the better; and in every trouble (for we have had our troubles) he has given us effectual help. Shall we not then believe, that he will perfect that which concerns us? When I was an infant, and knew not what I wanted, he sent you into the world to be, first, the principal hinge, upon which my part, and character in life, was to turn and then to be my companion. We have traveled together near twenty-six years; and though we are changeable creatures, and have seen almost every thing change around us, he has preserved our affections, by his blessings, or we might have been weary of each other. How far we have yet to go, we know not . . . . If our lives are prolonged, the shadows of the evening, old age, with its attendant infirmities, will be pressing upon us soon. Yet I hope this uncertain remaining part of our pilgrimage, will upon the whole, be the best; for our God is all-sufficient, and can make us more happy, by the light of his countenance, when our temporal comforts fail, then we never were, when we possessed them to the greatest advantage.”

Newton’s sentiments are an encouraging reminder that true love is possible this side of heaven to those who make God the center of their relationship!

Ultimately speaking, the greatest manifestation of real love was the love expressed when Jesus died on the cross, which eventually led to the resurrection that is celebrated in so many churches this weekend.

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