It seems to me that the word ‘love’ and the ideas behind it have changed quite significantly over recent years. People still like to read 1 Corinthians 13 on love at weddings, but the modern use of the word love seems quite frequently to have a different emphasis. This can be trivial or major. We talk about loving chocolate ice cream, loving my new BMW, loving my new kitchen and much more, when we mean that we like them very much. However in the New Testament love always has the good of the person or object at its core. In the examples above you or I are at the core, and the chocolate, BMW or Kitchen are doing us good.
This might be a trivial point if the same thing didn’t seem to apply often to how society, and perhaps we, see love for people these days. The weight of I Corinthians 13 in a marriage service is that I am in this relationship to put you first, of course I am thrilled to be with you, and to be with you means the world to me, I am so fortunate to be loved by you, but in response I want to put you first (with God’s help – if I have any sense!). It is very interesting that Ephesians 6 says to men and women separately how they should relate to each other, what love looks like, it does NOT say what they can demand from the other. It doesn’t say a husband should demand his wife submit, it does say that he should love her as Christ loved the church. (which man has ever achieved that? As a man, I ask myself!).
Too often in our society love is about what I expect or can demand from you. Too often the pursuit of love and indeed relationships and friendships generally seems to be primarily about me, what you can give me, what I want, my fulfillment, my satisfaction. It is not that these things are not very important in any relationship but, in terms of priorities, if it comes first, it can lead us astray quite badly.
Outside marriage and friendships it can happen in many other areas, for example at work, or in church, or in our view of society. We can have an unbalanced expectation of what others should be doing for me, rather than what love may call me to be and do for them. We could say that young men who flew spitfires in the battle of Britain did it out of duty and we are not so keen on duty these days, or we could see that there was an expression of love that frequently led to sacrifice for others in injury and death. President Kennedy’s call to his fellow Americans around 60 years ago can seem old fashioned today “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”. But had he caught an aspect of true love?
Where does thanksgiving come into this consideration of true love? Well I suggest that the more I notice, appreciate and thank the Lord for his absolutely incredible love and sacrifice for me, putting me first, in that ”while I was still a sinner” Jesus died for me, Romans 5:8; the more my love for Him will increase and the closer we will become. Secondly as I thank Him I will find that His call to freely give because I have freely received, Matthew 10:8, will have more energy and power in it, fueled by a recognition of His love and care for me.
Thirdly thanksgiving reminds me of all Christ’s resources available to me, and within me, to be more able to love like Him. Added to this thanksgiving will remind me that love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit who is there to enable, encourage and flow with and through me in this. I am not trying to do it on my own.
Finally thanksgiving will help re-orientate my inner compass and priorities from any entitlement temptation which can say ‘what can I get’? or ‘what’s in it for me?’, to finding a liberty to flow like Jesus in what I can, and have, to give in love. And I won’t miss out on being blessed, as I discover more of the principle and truth of the Lord’s words, quoted by Paul to the elders of the church at Ephesus, Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than receive.”