What is True Love? Part 2: Real vs. Fake

If you didn’t pick up the definition from the previous post, What is True Love? Part 1, plainly stated, God is the definition of love.

It says this in 1 John 4:16. “God is Love” therefore, Love is God, right? God is the essence and source of true love. Every attempt to define love apart from God is not a true representation of it. Everything we label to be “love” that doesn’t actually reflect the heart and character of God is a counterfeit. It may look the part, it may seem real and full- but in the end it is just not the real thing.

Crazy thing about counterfeits is that many times, they are undetectable. I mean, that’s often the point, right? A counterfeit is created to look like the actual thing it’s replicating. But, we’ve all seen the wide spectrum of counterfeits. Take dollar bills for example. Monoply money is a counterfeit, but it is so obviously NOT real money. A step up might be play money you can buy at the Dollar Store. It’s barely any better than the Monoply money, but at least it’s not pink. I’ve seen some fake money that looks similar to actual money, but it was five times the size. However, there are some counterfeit bills circulating right now that have slipped past many of us. Without realizing it, fake money is being used right under our noses. This man-made, manufactured money is being passed off as the real thing. I wonder sometimes if I’ve ever used fake money, unknowingly? I’m not certain but there is a good chance I have. I mean according to research, there’s hundreds of millions of dollars in fake bills in circulation right now. People unknowingly think it is real, and instead of throwing it away and getting the real thing, they use it. Even worse, can you imagine finding out the bills in your wallet were fake? Who will replace them? The bank surely won’t.

I think this same type of thing is happening with love. Without realizing it, we are being tricked into believing that the counterfeit love the world is manufacturing, is the real thing. I can’t say for certain that everyone has encountered fake bills. But I can say with 100% conviction that we’ve all been introduced to a counterfeit love. I think we can all agree that the cheesy Hallmark movies are that pink, fake Monopoly money type of love. No one goes on a work trip to a small town in Idaho and finds true love while shoveling cow manure with the town’s local, single, and strangely rich, hunk. It’s just soooo not real life. It’s laughable to try to pass that off as real, the same way it would be laughable to attempt to pay for your groceries with green and blue game board money. A step up from Hallmark movies might be when we look to social media relationships. Our “friends” (we’ve never met or knew back in High school), post pictures of their perfect relationship and we think, “wow, they must really love each other.” There’s always cute hashtags like #bettertogether #bestspouseever #loveisintheair… but, when the camera stops filming, that relationship is actually toxic, abusive or just not what is projected. That might be like that type of money that looks real, but is actually way bigger. It appears that the couple is living in a loving relationship - but they are going through BIG attempts to prove they’re something they’re not.

Most of us, after watching the first few minutes of a movie, or being around a couple a few times can get a better sense of what’s real and what’s fake. The harder thing is when we are confronted with those more illusive counterfeits. It’s more difficult when counterfeit love looks like the love of God. How do we actually discern the real from the fake when from the outside it seems genuine? What do we do with our strong feelings of passion and desire? How many times have we offered or received counterfeit love believing it was in fact genuine?

In the previous post, we covered what God’s definition of true love is. That famous chapter 13 in Corinthians is a beautiful description of the heart of God. When we combine that with the life and sacrifice of Jesus and all the other aspects of God’s love mentioned in the Bible we begin to see the truth of God’s love being set apart from all the other counterfeit versions.

In order to understand God’s love better, we need to be humble in acknowledging the fake versions out there and we need to look to the Bible for the truth. Confronting lies and misconceptions produces growth and wisdom. If we won’t admit that there are a lot of twisted versions of love and that there a lot of misuses of the word, we will remain indifferent. To avoid being fooled by the fake - we have to know the real. I’ve found great benefit in comparing what the world says love is, with what God says love is. When we begin doing this, we really get somewhere. It’s kind of like taking one of those special markers the cashiers use to check the bills. We can use God’s word like that special marker. When we swipe the world’s version of love with the marker of God’s word - we see just how fake it is. We can’t just trust our own eyes. Remember when people used to hold bills up to the light? Apparently the fake bills wouldn’t have some kind of strip embedded in them. Holding it up to the light would reveal if that strip was missing, and I think we try to do this by using our feelings. We let our feelings be our gauge.

“If this makes me feel good, secure and loved, then it must be real.”

“If I’m missing certain feelings of being wanted, desired, or needed- this must be fake.”

Y’all- how far have your feelings alone gotten you in life? I learned long ago, my feelings?…They are NOT the truth. In fact, when it comes to love- our feelings might just be the biggest culprit in the entire matter. Love according to our feelings alone is self serving. It is, “give me love and make me feel good and I will give it back.”

True love according to this world is NEEDS based. Man-made love appeals to our feelings. We live in a culture that has created holidays around catering to making people FEEL loved. Valentine’s Day in the world’s eye is a day to give and to get your love tank filled. Don’t hear me wrong here. I LOVE hearts, and giving flowers and candy. I love expressing love. I actually enjoy Valentine’s Day in light of how I look at in through the lens of my faith. The fact remains, it is a holiday that we haven’t invited God into. It’s a holiday about our feelings and our needs.

How many movie plots are predicated on someone saying, “I love you,” only to not receive that love in return? The characters get in a tizzy and the world comes crashing down around them because their special someone doesn’t love them in return. Basically, that message says - I love you because I NEED YOU to love me back. THIS IS FAKE.

Why? God’s love doesn’t need anything in return. It only gives. God’s love isn’t dependent on you or I loving Him back. In fact, whether or not you ever give God a second thought, His love remains for you. This is different from the world. Like I highlighted before, God’s word says that love isn’t self seeking. I have so much assurance in that I am truly loving someone with that Agape love when I give without any expectation of getting something in return. When you say, “I love you,” to someone, isn’t it the natural thing to expect them to say, “I love you, too.” This is how we’ve been trained in the world to give and receive love. On a needs basis, not on a sacrificial basis. Jesus came to correct our love problem, by being the very solution. He came to demonstrate love. Jesus was the living breathing example of love itself. He existed to love, sacrificially. He only came to serve, without needing anything in return. Instead, his reward was Heavenly in nature. It was the JOY set before him that helped him endure the cross. Jesus didn’t need humans to love him back, because He was already secure in all the love He received from his father in Heaven.

Of course it feels good when people treat us well. I don’t think it’s wrong to enjoy the affection of others. On the contrary, when we experience the true love of God it can feel amazing and that is a good thing. But when we don’t feel love from others do we feel broken or insecure? When we have the personal revelation that we don’t NEED people to love us a certain way to feel secure and when we don’t need the validation or approval of others, we graduate into a deeper knowing of God’s fulfilling love. When we live in love with God, we live in light of that same security Jesus walked with. This is the way we put his TRUE love into ACTION.

If you’re reading today and realize you’ve maybe been using a counterfeit form of love, or even receiving it, what will you do now? It’s as if you are confronted with a wallet full of fake cash. Will you actually throw it away? Will you say, “no, I won’t use love as a means to satisfy my feelings?” Will you adopt God’s Agape love as your new truth? Will you sacrificially love others and deny your own feelings? Will you discard the inauthentic love that’s been thrown your way? It’s hard to think about it when we realize that so much of what we’ve done in the name of love, and so much that’s been done to us, has actually been a counterfeit. My challenge to you is to toss it. No, a bank won’t replace fake bills- but God? He will totally replace that love, with himself. His love? It satisfies, it fulfills, it is the only thing that buys real and lasting joy. And as you grow in learning the depth, width, height and length of it, rest assured that it’ll cover you and others as you become love itself.

Love doesn’t exist as merely a feeling. Love is an action. Love is demonstrative. Love is alive. Love is God himself. Jesus proves that.

I was only going to write this in two parts, but I’m confronted with so much that I’ll have to keep this love thing going.

PART THREE COMING SOON!

Happy Love Day!

Stay joyful,

Shelly

Also- check out this LOVE CHALLENGE I recently posted!

Shelly Jata