“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35).
It is possible that one of the most overused phrases in American churches today is the phrase, “I love you”, or “God loves you and so do I.” I believe it was Dr. Robert Schuller, former pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, who first made this expression popular.
Unfortunately, some people are quick to use this phrase, and perhaps sincerely mean it at the time, until love is tested. The moment there is a disagreement, the moment something is said or done that is not personally approved, that is the moment that “love” stops. Suddenly the expression is not used because coldness and tension replaces the once sweet spirit.
It is not hard to discern why the phrase, “I love you,” is used. The phrase is used because there is so little love in the world. Mothers abort their unborn babies. Many parents abuse the children that are born. Evil men and women exploit young people for sexual pleasure. America is a leading exporter of child pornography. Muslim religious zealots rape, behead, and slaughter innocent children reflected in the bloody Taliban attack on a school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar on December 16, 2014. Once more a voice is heard around the world, “lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not” (Matthew 2:18). There are wars and rumors of wars throughout the Middle East. The Russian Bear is on the march in the Crimea. For anyone to say, “I love you,” even for a moment, well, it is an emotional lifeline in a world gone mad. Individuals are desperate for love.
Again, it is not hard to understand why this phrase is abused. The phrase “I love you” is abused because it is not understood. If a group of people were asked to define love, it would be hard to find a consensus. If asked what Biblical love is, many people would be clueless and would not know what to say or where to begin. The proper answer would be that Biblical love begins, not with an emotional feeling, but with gospel obedience rooted in knowledge of the truth. “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments” (2 John 6). Furthermore, Biblical love is demonstrated by right actions being administered at the right time regardless of one’s personal feelings. This truth is taught by Jesus in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). If a person wants to see if they are a loving person according to Biblical standards, a self-evaluation test can be taken based on what love will and will not do as set forth in 1 Corinthians 13.
My intention would never be to try and stop individuals, especially Christians, from saying, “I love you”, or “God loves you and so do I.” The only time some people are told they are loved is in church.
However, my heart’s desire is that God’s people use this expression in an authentic manner with Biblical understanding, heartfelt sincerity, and only when it is truly meant. People want to know if they are really loved because only then is the expression meaningful and emotionally satisfying. Therefore, remember that love is a verb. Love is something to be demonstrated as well as spoken. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).