When you first read the words, “Love is not selfish” you may have immediately thought of 1 Corinthians 13, frequently called “the love chapter.” However, these words actually never appear there. Yet, I still believe this statement is very true. Even from Paul’s words one can see this principle: “Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant” (v.4) and “It does not insist on its own way” (v.5). Let us take a brief look at what I believe is a vital characteristic of true love.
Our culture has taken the word love and distorted it completely. I’m not taking just about the fact that it has made love synonymous with physical romance, but the fact that it has subtly made love into something selfish. What do I mean by this? Love has come to mean “strongly appreciating someone for loving you as much as you do.” We only “love” those who please us. We only “love” the actions and attributes of another that benefit us. We “love” them because we like being loved.
Now loving someone because we like being loved may not sound so terrible, but what about when the person we “love” does something that hurts us? We certainly don’t like that. We love ourselves and we don’t want anyone to hurt us, harm us, or violate our “rights.” How dare they mess with the one we love, ourselves! But what happens when that person who harms us is the one we claim we love? Then we see the true nature of our so called love. We don’t love being hurt. We are selfish. We don’t love people violating our “rights.” How dare they!
My point is, if we truly loved those we claim to love, we would be more selfless in our relationships with them. If we truly loved others with genuine love, we would love them for their own benefit, not for the benefit it brings us.
Every Christian is in the process of being transformed towards Christlikeness by God. This process is formally called sanctification. This transformation is a difficult journey and involves an imperfect and sinful person who commits imperfect and sinful actions. But God is working in that person and seeks to change him or her into Christ’s image.
Therefore, if we truly loved those we claimed to love, we would love them as God loves them; we would love them for who He is transforming them into. We must see them through the lens of sanctification. If we truly love them, when they sin against us, harm us, or violate our “rights,” we no longer react with a love for self, but we thank God that we can be a part of His process of transforming them. We love them and care about who they are and who they can be, not what benefit they bring to us. This true form of love will not fade away, since it is no longer dependent on what the other person can contribute to us. This is true selfless love.
Sin is by nature selfish.
Selfishness is by nature antisocial and harmful to our relationships.
Love is not selfish.
* Originally posted on former blog, I’m Calling Us Out.