Thursday, February 14, 2019

True Love (as taught by The Princess Bride)

“This is true love—you think this happens every day?” (Westley—The Princess Bride)
Everybody longs for it. Even when people claim they're not looking for love, they are. They have a "love life," even when they aren't actively looking for a significant other. Everyone seeks love from different sources. For some, it might be the love between a husband and wife. For others, the love of parents, siblings, children, or friends. The desire to be loved is among the deepest feelings known to man. Valentine's Day (or "Singles Awareness Day") embodies this delight in being loved, or emphasizes the pain of lacking love. In this quest for true love, today's generations have lost the real definition of love. They have forgotten the source of perfect love. Instead of embracing the purest form of love, they have traded it for a substitute—the empty love of the world. All too often, people ignore the one true love they already have.

". . . true love is the greatest thing in the world. Except for a nice M.L.T., a mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich . . ." (Miracle Max—The Princess Bride)
Of course, the truest form of love I'm referring to is the love of Jesus the Christ. The Bible tells us the magnitude of Jesus' love for us:
  • "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
  • "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
  • And the famous: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16, NKJV).
These three verses alone summarize the depth of God's passion for mankind, His precious creation. First, the greatest kind of love is defined (sacrificing one's life for his friends); then we see that Jesus did this for us. The last verse further demonstrates the enormity of God's love as He gave His one and only Son to die so that man might be able to live with Him forever. There is no greater love than this. 

More so, what does God get from us? For what reason would He sacrifice so much? There is nothing we can offer God that is worthy of His awesome love. That's where the completely incredible part comes in. God doesn't need us. He wants us. Jesus wants us enough to be willing to die to save our lives, and we can't ever repay him. He loves us for the sake of loving us. Not for anything we do. He doesn't tell us to go and try to live perfectly. He doesn't ask that we all die martyrs' deaths for His sake. He only asks that we believe in Him and choose to enter into a relationship with Him. He desires for us to tell others about His love for them, and how He made a way for them to live in eternity with Him (Matthew 28:19-20). He wants us to bring glory to Him in all we do (1 Corinthians 10:31). This is pure grace and true love. Sacrificial. Loving not for what He can get out of the relationship, but simply because He cares about us.

Unfortunately, our standards of a "relationship" have been so diminished from what they should be, that we often forget that a commitment is a commitment.
We can't have many lovers.
We can't play the "dating game" with God, and have a different "love" every week.
"Why didn't you wait for me?" (Westley—The Princess Bride)
Our God is a jealous God, and He will not allow His bride (Christians) to have an affair. He will not compete for our hearts. Even so, He will not force us to love Him. It would not be true love if He did. Rather, He gives us a choice. We can choose Him, or we can choose the world. What will it be?

Too often, young Christians give up on the faith, unwilling to give up the comforts and pleasures of this world in exchange for the hard life of a Christian with a mind solely devoted to bringing glory to God. In a sense, they are saying:
"I loved once . . . It worked out badly." (Buttercup—The Princess Bride)
This is not true love. "Loving" only when it is easy or one benefits, is simply not love. It's self-seeking. It lacks purity. Christians who abandon God's true love for them are having an affair. They gave their heart to God, then took it back to give to the world. Sometimes, they hit a hard time in life, and go running back to God, claiming:
"I will never doubt again." (Buttercup—The Princess Bride)
Then, as soon as their life is back on track and things get better, they turn their backs on God again. 

The classic 1 Corinthians 13 passage explains true love:
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. Love never ends.
God's love is perfect. Our love is far from perfect. Even on our best days, our love for God and those around us is imperfect. We are regularly quick-tempered, harsh, jealous, prideful, selfish, irritable, and resentful. We lack commitment. All of these are daily struggles, and they're all the opposite of love. Thank God He doesn't love us the same way we love Him.

On a human level, unfortunately, many tend to forget this true love. Since loving God is so hard, and not necessarily immediately gratifying, we turn to other substitutes, ignoring our True Love. We aren't willing to put the effort into loving God. Because of our poor attempts of love and failure to honor our commitments, we tend to settle for less than love and to act less than loving. We forget God's commands.
  • "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25—italics mine).
  • "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-39).
  • "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44).
Instead of following Christ's example of Biblical love, we have come to treat love as a fleeting feeling. It comes and goes. One day we might love someone, the next we don't. One day we might love Jesus, the next we don't. Again I say, this is not true love. Love doesn't come and go. It takes work. It endures all things and never ends. It loves our enemies.

This Valentine's Day, reevaluate your love life. Even if you claim you don't have a "love life," you do. There are people that you love and who love you, even when it's not shown well. Above all, God loves you, even when you don't love Him back. Take a look around you at your loves.
  • Is God your first love? Are you loving God as He has commanded? Are you remaining pure to Him, as His bride?
  • What about family and friends? Are you treating them with real love? Love that is patient, kind, putting them above yourself? Love that endures the arguments and bad days, weeks, or months? Love that persists even when it isn't returned?
  • Are you loving those around you by telling them the good news that they, too, have a True Love who is eager to embrace them?
  • Do you show God's love even to those who hate you?
Remember what true love is. Don't simply give someone a Valentine today, but tomorrow return to bickering. Love with God's perfect love, not on your own strength. Love others like God loves you. Unconditionally. And love God most of all. He is worthy. Don't settle for a substitute. It won't fulfill your longing for love. Only God's love will fill the void.

"This is true love—you think this happens every day?" No. It does not happen every day. Only those who choose to embrace God's perfect love will experience the beauty of true love. What a privilege to have access to the single biggest thing this world longs for!

A final bit of encouragement:
"Death cannot stop true love." (Westley—The Princess Bride)
This is the truest line I've quoted from The Princess Bride today. For a Christian, death only swirls you up into the arms of your True Love. Love blossoms to its fullest in the presence of the Lover. How much more so will the purest, truest of loves be in the presence of the Divine Lover?

Happy Valentine's Day! <3
Note: All Scripture is in the English Standard Version, unless otherwise noted.