Here is Paul Tripp’s definition of love: “Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving” (What Did You Expect? p. 188).
In the following he unpacks the definition (pp. 188-189):
Love is willing.
Jesus said, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18). The decisions, words, and actions of love always grow in the soil of a willing heart. You cannot force a person to love. If you are forcing someone to love, by the very nature of the act you are demonstrating that this person doesn’t in fact love.
Love is willing self-sacrifice.
There is no such thing as love without sacrifice.
Love calls you beyond the borders of your own wants, needs, and feelings.
Love calls you to be willing to invest time, energy, money, resources, personal ability, and gifts for the good of another.
Love calls you to lay down your life in ways that are concrete and specific.
Love calls you to serve, to wait, to give, to suffer, to forgive, and to do all these things again and again.
Love calls you to be silent when you want to speak, and to speak when you would like to be silent.
Love calls you to act when you would really like to wait, and to wait when you would really like to act.
Love calls you to stop when you really want to continue, and it calls you to continue when you feel like stopping.
Love again and again calls you away from your instincts and your comfort.
Love always requires personal sacrifice.
Love calls you to give up your life.
Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another.
Love always has the good of another in view.
Love is motivated by the interests and needs of others.
Love is excited at the prospect of alleviating burdens and meeting needs.
Love feels poor when the loved one is poor.
Love suffers when the loved one suffers.
Love wants the best for the loved one and works to deliver it.
Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation.
The Bible says that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. If he had waited until we were able to reciprocate, there would be no hope for us.
Love isn’t a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” bargain.
Love isn’t about placing people in our debt and waiting for them to pay off their debts.
Love isn’t a negotiation for mutual good.
Real love does not demand reciprocation, because real love isn’t motivated by the return on the investment. No, real love is motivated by the good that will result in the life of the person being loved.
Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving.
Christ was willing to go to the cross and carry our sin precisely because there was nothing that we could ever do to earn, achieve, or deserve the love of God. If you are interested only in loving people who are deserving, the reality is that you are not motivated by love for them but by love for yourself. Love does its best work when the other person is undeserving. It is in these moments that love is most needed. It is in these moments that love is protective and preventative. It stays the course while refusing to quit or to get down and get dirty and give way to things that are anything but love.
There is never a day in your marriage when you aren’t called to be willing.
There is never a day in your marriage when some personal sacrifice is not needed.
There is never a day when you are free from the need to consider the good of your husband or wife.
There is never a day when you aren’t called to do what is not reciprocated and to offer what has not been deserved.
There is never a day when your marriage can coast along without being infused by this kind of love.