God is love. He didn’t invent love — He is love.
Love is the perfect representation of who God really is. To say to someone, “I love you,” would be the same as, “I God You.”
In other words, “I will treat you the same way God treats you, I will value you the same way God values you, I will desire the very best for you the same way God desires the best for you — not your enjoyment, comfort, or happiness, but to the best of my ability I will help you become like Him. I will treat you like He would treat you.”
You can’t say “I love you” to your boyfriend or girlfriend and then have sex with them or push them to be sexually active with you. In fact, I’m not so sure you can say “I love you” to them and then make out with them because that is not what God’s best looks like for them. God’s best would maintain their purity above your desires and wants, even above your needs.
You can’t love your neighbor and then talk bad about them. And you can’t love money or things. It is simply impossible because God doesn’t love money or things.
We usually lust. I think that is what we really mean when we tell most people “I love you.”
We really mean “I lust you.” That is why following our words we often treat the other person in the way necessary to move us closer to what we want, not their best. People are so starved for true love that we use our verbal claims to love as a way to soften them up to get what we desire from them — that which fills our fleshly needs.
In the Bible, Joseph was a good model for love. King David is a good model for lust. Joseph truly loved Potiphar’s wife, and because of that he refused to have sex with her (mutual consensual sex was not what was best for her). David only lusted after Uriah’s wife.
Joseph truly loved his brothers — choosing to forgive them even when he had the power to punish them for their wrong. Joseph loved the people in jail with him (that is why he was put in charge of them. The guards knew he would seek the best for the other inmates, and take care of them, not abuse his position for his own gain). David only lusted after the things which he didn’t have — things he wanted for his now sinful desires and gain.
So what… (what difference does all this make, why should I care)… so what now? Well here are a couple ideas.
You can’t love the church without treating the church the way Jesus did. He loved it so much He laid down His life for it. You can’t love your wife without treating her the way Jesus did, laying down your life for her (her desires over your own, her dreams over your own, her needs over your own). You can’t love your husband without treating him according to God’s word (respect, love, admiration, submission). You can’t love your family without treating them the way God says to. This involves your time, attention, love, patience, respect, gentleness, instruction, etc. And you can’t love things God doesn’t love — money, power, out of marriage sex, fame, your glory, cars, toys, etc.
“Set your mind (and heart) on things above, not on the things of this world” (Colossians 3:2).
“No one should seek his own good, but the good of the other person” (1 Corinthians 10:24).
Simply put, God is love and we should love like him. Though we are imperfect, we should strive to know the love God more fully and display this love to the world.