Did you have a wonderfully romantic Valentine’s Day? Or was any reference to romance or marriage painful for you this year? Maybe it was fun, flirty, and a celebration of the good season you are in. Or perhaps you had a conflict-filled week, and Valentine’s Day felt fake, forced, and a cover up.
Personally, I love romance. I am way over on the romantic end of the emotional spectrum. I do think romance, romantic gestures, gifts, dates, and surprises are an important ingredient in a healthy marriage.
But romance is not love. Romance is not a fruit of the Spirit. You can be a follower of Jesus, filled with Holy Spirit, lacking romance yet incarnating the love of Christ.
This is love: “Not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10-11, ESV).
Regardless of your marital status, here are 23 ways to express cruciform love—"in the shape of the Cross" love—in 2023.
1. Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving.
2. Love is being willing to have your life complicated by the needs and struggles of another without impatience or anger.
3. Love is actively fighting the temptation to be critical and judgmental toward another, while looking for ways to encourage and praise.
4. Love is the daily commitment to resist the needless moments of conflict that come from pointing out and responding to minor offenses.
5. Love is being lovingly honest and humbly approachable in times of misunderstanding, and being more committed to unity and love than you are to winning, accusing, or being right.
6. Love is a daily commitment to admit your sin, weakness, and failure and to resist the temptation to offer an excuse or shift the blame.
7. Love means being willing, when confronted by another, to examine your heart rather than rising to your defense or shifting the focus.
8. Love is a daily commitment to grow in love so that the love you offer to another is increasingly selfless, mature, and patient.
9. Love is being unwilling to do what is wrong when you have been wronged but to look for concrete and specific ways to overcome evil with good.
10. Love is being a good student of another, looking for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs so that in some way you can remove the burden, support them as they carry it, or encourage them along the way.
11. Love means being willing to invest the time necessary to discuss, examine, and understand the problems that you face in your relationship, staying on task until the problem is removed or you have agreed upon a strategy of response.
12. Love is always being willing to ask for forgiveness and always being committed to grant forgiveness when it is requested.
13. Love is recognizing the high value of trust in a relationship and being faithful to your promises and true to your word.
14. Love is speaking kindly and gently, even in moments of disagreement, refusing to attack the other person’s character or assault his or her intelligence.
15. Love is being unwilling to flatter, lie, manipulate, or deceive in any way in order to co-opt another into giving you what you want or doing something your way.
16. Love is being unwilling to ask another to be the source of your identity, meaning and purpose, or inner sense of well-being, while simultaneously refusing to be the source of theirs.
17. Love is the willingness to have less free time, less sleep, and a busier schedule in order to be faithful to what God has called you to be and to do in that relationship.
18. Love is a commitment to say no to selfish instincts and to do everything that is within your ability to promote real unity, functional understanding, and active love in your relationship.
19. Love is staying faithful to your commitment to treat another with appreciation, respect, and grace, even in moments when he or she doesn’t seem to deserve it or is unwilling to reciprocate.
20. Love is the willingness to make regular and costly sacrifices for the sake of your relationship without asking anything in return or using your sacrifices to place the other person in your debt.
21. Love is being unwilling to make any personal decision or choice that would harm your relationship, hurt the other person, or weaken the bond of trust between you.
22. Love is refusing to be self-focused or demanding but instead looking for specific ways to serve, support, and encourage, even when you are busy or tired.
23. Love is daily admitting to yourself, the other person, and God that you are not able to love this way without God’s protecting, providing, forgiving, rescuing, and delivering grace.
We love because he first loved us!
Paul David Tripp
Review the list of 23 Things That Love Is. Identify several of the statements that convicted and challenged you most. For each one, ask yourself:
1. How did Jesus display this type of love during his earthly ministry?
2. How did you fail to live up to God's holy standard of this love in a relationship recently? What was motivating you to act otherwise?
3. Who do you need to ask forgiveness from when you have failed to love them like this? If you have not confessed, what is holding you back?
4. How can you ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to love in this way? Be specific and perhaps even write out a prayer that you repeat each day this week, asking for help.
5. How can you incarnate this type of cruciform love in a relationship with a non-believer? How might this open a door of conversation where you can share with them about the love of Christ?