If I talk a lot about God, the Bible, and the Church, but I fail to ask about other people’s needs, I’m simply making a lot of empty religious noise.

If I graduate from a respected private Christian university and know all the answers to questions you’ll never even think of asking, and if I have all of the degrees to prove it…and if I say I believe in God with all my heart, soul, and strength, claiming to have incredible answers to my prayers, but I fail to take the time to find out what makes others laugh and why they cry, I’m nothing.

If I sell an extra car and some of my books to raise money for poor starving kids somewhere, and if I give my life for God’s service and burn out after pouring everything I have into the work, but do it all without ever once caring about the people, the real hurting people—the moms and dads and sons and daughters and orphans and widows and the lonely and forgotten—if I pour my life into the Kingdom but forget to love those here on earth, my energy is wasted, and so is my life.

Here is what love is like…genuine love. God’s kind of love. It’s patient. It can wait. It helps others, even if they never find out who assisted them. Love doesn’t look for greener pastures. Love doesn’t boast. It doesn’t try to build itself up to be something it isn’t.

Love doesn’t act in a loose, immoral way. It doesn’t seek to take, but it willingly gives. Love doesn’t lose its temper. It doesn’t keep changing its mind. Love doesn’t think about how difficult the other person is, and certainly doesn’t think of how it could get back at someone. Love is grieved deeply over the evil in this world, but it rejoices over truth.

Love comes and sits with you when you’re feeling down and finds out what is wrong. It empathizes with you and believes in you. Love knows you’ll come through just as God planned, and love carries on to the end. It doesn’t give up, quit, diminish, or go home.

Love perseveres, even when everything goes wrong and the feelings leave and the other person doesn’t seem as special anymore. Love succeeds 100 percent of the time.

That, my friends, is what real love is.

david sanfordDavid Sanford serves on the leadership team at Corban University in Salem, Oregon. Among his many publishing credits, David is executive editor of Holy Bible: Mosaic, general editor of Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family, managing editor of the IVP Resonate series, co-author of How to Read Your Bible, and author of If God Disappears: 9 Faith Wreckers and What to Do About Them.

Publication date: April 3, 2013