I spend time and teach/pastor middle and high school students on a weekly basis. They have many conversations, but it always comes back to one thing. Can you guess? Relationships. And what kind of relationships? Yep, you got it again…dating. They like to call it “love”. Now I could probably go on and on about this subject and maybe it will have to be broken up into different posts, but let’s be honest, for 99% of them it is the farthest thing from love. They like to get me fired up just so I’ll say “this ain’t camp hook up” and most of the time I’ll tell them to “fall in love with Jesus first”, but I’m pretty sure it falls on deaf ears. I’m honestly not trying to be funny. I want them to value and see themselves as a beautiful creation that God made and intended for them to give fully to Him first and then bless their spouse with in the future.

Let’s take a quick look at what love is. What does the Bible say love is? Without posting 100 verses, we’ll look at some very familiar verses that spell it out.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

OK, can any of us honestly say we live up to all of the demands of love? Of course not! Only God can fully show love perfectly and He did this most beautifully on the cross. But let’s get even more honest and I’m going to tick many off. Edward and Bella aren’t the perfection of love either. (You know the vampire and the girl he can’t live without.) If you honestly have no idea who I’m talking about skip this altogether and ask yourself, “have I now officially lost any coolness I had left?”.

For many people, teenagers and adults, it’s lust or just a way to fill the void of being lonely. Why? Everyone else is striving for the same thing. They think, “I just have to have a boyfriend or girlfriend to feel like I’m worth something”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. All any of us need to do is look at what God says about us. About me. About you!

And we will look at what God says, but this is the truth. You and I are ugly. I know you might have been told you’re beautiful and stunning, but you’re ugly. Now hold on. Let me finish. I’m speaking of the inside here, not your outward appearance. Why are you ugly on the inside? One word answer…SIN. But check out what God says in this verse.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

So you WERE ugly, but Christ took your ugliness/scars/sin on the cross and defeated it. But what else?

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Here it is again. If you know Jesus Christ and follow Him, your self died on the cross with Him and He has made you new, something beautiful. But also remember he rose again. He defeated death and sin. That is beautiful. That is LOVE.

Ephesians 2:4-5 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved.

God has so much mercy and forgiveness for us and because he loves us so much, he has made us alive in Christ. His great love that covers us transforms who we are. The inside becomes beautiful.

So what does talking about SIN have to do with LOVE? Forgiveness and LOVE?

That is the most beautiful picture of what love is! God literally sent His own son named Jesus to take every sin and violation that you would ever commit and destroy them once and for all on the cross. He took the ultimate punishment so you would know what love really is. Is the most beautiful portrayal of love and the ultimate example.

OK, so maybe my youth are right. I’m just going to say it…

Fall in love with Jesus first and foremost before ever pursuing a dating relationship. And while you’re pursuing a dating relationship, measure them by the greatest love of all. If they don’t know Jesus, dating them will not necessarily make them love Jesus too, so DO NOT date someone who does not have the same beliefs as you. That’s in the Bible too! You have to guard yourself. Stay pure and hold to that. Do not give in to the heated moments you will face. If it’s love it can wait. Follow all of God’s commands on love, dating, relationships, sex, etc. Oh, and yes, you’ll still have awesome dates, just without the feelings of guilt. How incredible would all of our relationships be if we did exactly as God instructs us to? We could live and love life to the fullest.

So what is love? Love is God giving us his own son to be punished for our wrongdoing so that all of us could spend eternity (now that’s a long time!) with Him. (John 3:16 paraphrased)

Make the choice to honor God in all you do and love the greatest lover of all first. Then measure all you do by Him. Remember love goes both ways. Give all of yourself to God.

Oh, and one more thing. “This ain’t camp hook-up!”