Updated: Jul 26
Since February is the month of love, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss what love really is. Is it flowers and candy given to your sweetheart? Is it a kiss? Is it sweet words whispered into your ear?
I know for most of us, we'd love to have those expressions of love more often. But how does the Bible describe love?
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:18 NIV
If we are believers and have been victims to verbal/emotional/spiritual abuse, then we mostly likely have felt a lot of confusion in regards to love. Our significant other claimed he loved us. He may have even gone to church with us, every Sunday. Maybe he even lead a Bible Class. Or he could have been the local pastor. We think, surely he understands love and there must be something wrong with me since I feel empty, confused and hurt all of the time!
But NO! Look at the scripture above. John is telling us that love is more than words: love is action, and it's in truth! So let's unpack this! During my first 25 years of marriage, I continually focused on what was being said to me. I mean after all, why would my husband and his family not be truthful with me? I was naive. I believed that because I would never say one thing and do another, that those who I loved would also do the same. So when they would say that they loved me and the kids but do little to show that love, I was left wondering what I did wrong. Should I take them to Grandmothers more often (to give her more opportunities to love them)? Should I invite the cousins over more often? Should I tell my husband to read a book to the kids? I was continually thinking I needed to do something in order to get results. But the truth was that their words and their actions did not line up, so there was a lack of genuine love. This is sometimes called a double heart or simply hypocrisy.
Or maybe your experience was along the lines of lovebombing? Of course, this "lovebombing" only came after you had been ridiculed, ignored, or abused for some time. Finally, about the time you began to look at him as the one with the problem, he flipped on you and began to show "love" with gifts, sweet words, and actions. This made the past weeks/months of torment fade for a bit. You finally were getting a break. Whew! But then it starts again. What did I do wrong????
Well honey, I'm hear to tell you, you did NOTHING wrong! In fact, it's because of your kind spirit that he feels like he can now pounce on you with a vengeance. The cycle begins again. But unfortunately, you did not recognize it as a cycle. It was just your life. It was just the hell of confusion you lived in. It was your fog! Why? Because his words and actions did not line up. This was not love!
Even James, refers to the person who does not display actions in this way:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
James 1:22-24 NIV
So what about the "in truth" portion of the scripture? Well let's go back to the example I used at the beginning. Your husband may have been going to church with you every week, so that appears to have the words and actions both in sync right? No! The truth was missing. Without going all psycho-analytic on you, let me just say that truth is the farthest thing from a narcissists mind. They are all about appearances. That's why it gets so dang confusing for us Christians. All appears to be going well because he not only believes in God and makes it a priority to attend church services regularly. However, we need to ask what is in his heart? Why is it important to go to church? I can think of a lot of reasons why an abusive Christian man/woman might make it a priority to go to church with their family.
He/she wants onlookers to see his/her nice family doing their "Christian duty" each week. Applause! Yippee for this amazing family you have created!
He/she is going because of what he/she will get out the service
He/she feels uplifted attending the service
He/she believes God will look favorably on them for serving His people
He/she wants his/her family to do something that is important to him/her
Do you see a theme here? It's all about the narcissist. It has nothing to do with truth! After all, we are to worship God in Spirit and truth. But the narcissist has now turned the tables and made this time about him/her, not about worshipping the God of the universe; the One who made all things. There is not an ounce of truth in this scenario!
So what's the love that John is referencing? It's God's love! Think about it! God's love included words (the Bible and the words Jesus spoke while on the earth). But in addition to the Word, God exercised His love through His gracious actions. I can't think of greater love than giving His Son to die for weak humans like us. Come on! Would you give your son to die for people like us? I wouldn't! But God did! He didn't just speak love, He showed love. It was an action. And finally, it was in truth. God cannot lie. In fact, Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). By definition, Jesus is TRUTH!