“I love you” is much more than a Valentine’s Day sentiment. It’s much more than words on a card. So what is true love?

The Bible says the greatest commandment is: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5) and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18)

When Jesus came, he set the bar much higher.  Some of last words to his disciples were these:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

John 13:34

Jesus was saying that it is not enough to show love to someone by treating them as you would want them to treat you. True love is doing what I am doing—laying down my life for you.

Love is setting aside your desires, to serve the one you love. It’s placing that person’s needs and wants ahead of your own. It’s loving him even when he stumbles, or disappoints. It’s loving her even when she disrespects you or violates your trust. It’s a commitment to do anything and everything to bring about a restoration of that relationship.

That may be hard to spell out in a Valentine, but it is the very best guide for showing true love—love that will last throughout a lifetime and beyond. This kind of sacrificial love doesn’t come naturally, because we are self-centered.  But it will come once we understand that

God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

However, it takes more than more than just understanding, we must take that message to heart and accept the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross as payment for all the things we have done and will ever do to disappoint God, to disrespect him, even to violate the trust he has placed in us.

Embrace God’s love and you will discover how to truly love others.

Bible verses are quoted from the New American Standard Bible.