Leon Fontaine - What is Love?
One of my greatest struggles as a topic, as a man, has always revolved around the word love. But I've tried to live in love. I've tried to teach with love. I've tried to keep my motive love but I had a hard time teaching on it. Whenever I would go to the Word, I didn't see love the way so many of my pastoral friends saw it. Love was always presented as who's the most loving person? That would be the, the sweetest, cutest person that just goes, "I love you". And I didn't feel that way. Love is the person that you can walk all over. Love is the person you can get them to give you your money. Love is the person you can stay at their house and take their car.
So a loving person is someone that you can take advantage of, and I just couldn't see it that way. A verse that really impacted me is when Jesus said you must love one another. And I thought, "Well, how"? And He said, "As I have loved you". So He died for us. So do I have to die? No, it's His death that gives you new life. So then I begin to study the life of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John which are transitional books between the old covenant and the new. And if I'm supposed to love you and you're to love me the way Christ has loved. I begin to study Him, and aside from His giving His life, which you cannot do what Jesus did for me. He went to hell in my place. He brings new life to me so that I can live and He did the same for you. So we can't do that for each other. And how did Jesus love people?
So I went through the four books to find an example of did anybody take advantage of Jesus? Was He just one of those little sweetie grandpas that you could steal their money, their car, their house. Get Him to... no, nobody took advantage of Jesus. But they killed Him. No, they didn't kill Him. John 10 says Jesus says, and it was like He was speaking to me when He said, "Nobody takes my life. I give it". And they tried to take His life and He walked through the crowd and they couldn't find Him. They couldn't even decide when they took His life. He gave it and He gave it freely of His own. He loved on His time. He loved His way and He followed love. And I thought, "Well, how do you follow love"? You follow God. Now it's getting somewhere.
So I don't have to be this, this patsy that everybody can take advantage of. I don't have to walk around and, "I love you and I love you. God bless you". And I get little tingle and my leg pops when I see you. And all this lovey, lovey-dovey stuff that, that, you know, some of the women might like but... I did a leadership conference in the States. I don't know how they heard about it but I had, I think 12 to 14 Navy Seals show up, took in the conference and then asked if they could take me out to lunch afterwards. And I sat around a table with young men trained to the elite. The elite. And as we talked about their marriages and the future and their nation and why they became Navy Seals. I met men that loved but they weren't cute. I met men who would lay down their lives in a second, and you could not disagree they loved. Everybody looks at Christian and goes, "But you're supposed to love". What they mean is do what I want.
God is love. Love has wisdom because wisdom cries aloud in the streets it says in Proverbs. And so to love someone without wisdom doesn't make sense. Doesn't loving someone shouldn't it look ahead into the future? Shouldn't it if you're going to love your kids, then do you give them whatever they want? No. My daughters they get upset at me and Sally going, "Leon"! Because they walk up to me with these big eyes and I'm having a, a latte. And so I give them a sip of my latte. Dad, what are you doing? You can't give the kid caffeine. Oh, yeah, right. But I can't say no. And then, you know, if I, I grab a couple chocolates and this little 2-year old waddle over to my chair with these big eyes and I'm going, "There's no one looking". I start feeding them chocolate. And they're going, "Dad! I'm going to leave that kid at your place. They're going to be up all night. You can't just give people what they want".
And it's hard. You grandparents know what I'm talking about. And so, I think okay. So I have to love them but I got to use wisdom when I love them. Piece by piece I begin to recognize that love is the most powerful force in the universe. That love is God and God is so potent. He's so powerful. He's so all knowing. He's so incredible. And He knows and He tells us, "Live for the generations. Live for the future. Make decisions for the future". Don't just walk around going, "We Christians, we just love you and do whatever you want to our system, to me, to my", no! We build with love. You can be a businessman that builds companies in the city. And if your motive is love, it'll outlive you and bring blessing and jobs and careers and finances. And that city can be strong and healthy. You give back. Some can educate and get into education with a motive of love. And I want to love and I want to educate. And then there's others that it's not love. They just take.
So I want to give you quickly today something that will change your life and it's helping me on this journey of what is love. I want to talk to you about the three quadrants of love. God is love. And He created you in love. You are a child of love. One person said to me, "My mom was raped and she didn't have an abortion and I'm not a child of love". I said, "I don't care how you were conceived. God knew the future. He saw the pain, the brokenness, and the heartache. And He created the human race for the purpose of loving". You can't get more intimate than the word family. And when He made the world, He called it good. When He made the universe, it's good. He made the animals. It's good. We love animals. But when He made people, He said, "Let's make them like us". That's what God said. Let's make them in our image, in our likeness.
I grew up listening to some pastors that, you know, you dirty rotten, good for nothin sinner. You ought to be glad God even looks at you. You pathetic piece of humanity. Literally worst words that I'm using right now. And I used to, I know what they're trying to do. They're trying to make me understand how, how much God. Just looked at them I'm going, "Oh". That's how I feel about myself now. I'm just this piece of sinful, never perfect, never get it right, never do enough person that hopefully God looks at me. And then as I begin to read the Bible for myself which I've been doing the last 40 years. I found out that I'm made in His likeness and in His image. So to call myself down is to call Him down.
I recognize that He's a God of love and He made me in love. That I come from a God whose heart is so full of love. And He made you and He loves you. And you are beautifully and wonderfully made, it says in Psalms 139. And that you cannot get your significance. You cannot get your dignity. You cannot get your value from anyone. Not your wife, not your husband, not your government, not your church, not your pastor, not your kids. You can only get it from a God that loves you so completely. It stabilizes your identity. The first quadrant of love is to recognize that your identity, who you are, has to come from an all-knowing, all-loving God who looks at you and He sees, Jesus, He sees the very creation. And until you anchor that and you receive this love and you begin to believe this love. And stop looking at yourself through the eyes of others. You look through the eyes of God who created you.
Now you establish this powerful rock solid identity. I look like God. I'm His kid. He made me, designed me. I'm wonderfully made. God you love me. You're in love with me. You're pleased with me. You're excited about me. There's no worse torture to a child than to have them look at the person that loves them the most like a dad or a mom for example, or maybe they were raised by a grandpa, a grandma, a foster mom. That's fine. But to look at the person that they should get the most love from and to get disdain. You displease me. You're not good enough. It's probably one of the most destructive forces that we could ever unleash on the next generation. And so to love that generation and to help them establish their values. Powerful but until you establish your own God is in love with me and get your identity from an all-loving God. You will never love right. You'll never get your emotions right. You'll never keep healthy emotions. It will be wah, wah, wah, wah. First quadrant, receive God's love. Believe God's love.
Now, I've got news for you. I'm working on the believing part because I know me so good. I'm shocked people love me. So are you. You know how selfish and self-centered we can be as we look at ourselves and translate everything by ourselves, through ourselves. And, you know, it's an amazing day when someone looks at you and says, "You know, I know you think everyone's talking about you. But it's even worse than that. They don't even think about you". But that's freeing. That every one of us thinks that people are whispering, they're talking about me. And so you must, man, I could unpack this for hours. It's the most beautiful amazing teaching. God is love. You were made in love, designed for love. Loved by a God.
Second quadrant of love is yourself. You must love yourself. Now we've been taught in our nation, we have a saying, "Oh, he loves himself". And so we mean you're arrogant. We mean you're self-centered. You think about yourself. But a stunning verse in the Bible says that we must love others as we love God. No! As we love our mother. No. As we love our father. No. As we love ourselves. Loving yourself is an absolute key to the ability to keep your relationship healthy and whole. If you do not love yourself, you have no ability to really love others. Now you'll try. The second quadrant of love. The second key to living this life at peace and a joy. The second key, the most beautiful mind. You know, they did a movie years ago called, "A Beautiful Mind".
If you want a beautiful mind, beautiful emotions, beautiful relationships. If you want a life that puts you at peace, disconnected from anybody's ability to control your emotions, control your identity, to control who you are, etcetera. Then you must learn to love yourself. And if you do not learn to love yourself, you will feel phony even though this is you. So who are you? Well, my name. That's your name. Who are you? Well, I am an electrician. No! That's what your career is. Who are you? You are who God says you are. You're not who anybody else says you are. You're not who your failures say you are. You're not who your successes say you are. You are who the God of love who created you says you are, and you are so loved. You are so loved.
The third quadrant is loving others. Here's where I struggle because much of the Christian tradition is that if I walk in love I should let you have whatever you want from me, do whatever you want to me. And everything I do should be for your benefit. Meaning, you get to pick that, like a kid who just wants candy, or a kid who wants to stay up late. And you realize for their own good, I can't do that because they're going to get sick etcetera, etcetera. And I begin to recognize that I am to love others as Jesus loved. And my challenge for you today is, there are so many verses about love. So many things in movies and preachers and people who have talked about love. And, you know, if you, if you love people, then you'll just do whatever they need. Really? Whatever happen to consequences?
You know that mom that looks after her boy. He keeps doing stuff wrong in sports. He does, he disobey his teacher. And she just keeps saving him from every consequence. Is that love if you look ahead? That you go, tough love would say, "I think you need to walk this one out my son". Is that love? Is there tough love? Or is love just weak? If you were to ask me, "Do you love God"? I would say, "Yes, out of religious duty". That was a question I struggle with because I didn't feel like I ever loved Him enough until I realized that actually I didn't need to love Him to be saved. That shocked me. When I say it, people are shocked. You don't have to love God? To get born again? No. It says just accept the, what Jesus did and believe on what Jesus did. God doesn't, you know, most of us don't believe in love at first sight. And I might believe in lust at first sight but love, but love develops. And as I look at what Jesus did for me, and I begin to recognize the plan of God. And the more I looked at Jesus in the Word, the more I look at God and I went, "Wow, You're blowing my mind. You, You love me. You love me".
And so love does not mean that everybody around you can get whatever they want off of you. Love doesn't mean you're weak. Navy Seals do what they do. There may be other reasons. I don't know their heart. But as they're sure. They sure spoke up about a love for their country and their kids and the future. And so love is God. But love is also a motive. And here's another thought that I begin to recognize that it's not often what you do. What you do is important. It's the motive you do it with. It's really important. If you're following a leader, you want to hope that love, loving others is at the core of their leadership. If at the core of their leadership is they need a position to feel good about themself. They are in the first quadrant that only God's love can do that. So now though they want to be applauded. They want to be noticed. They want to have a microphone. They want to have a stage because they need to feel good about themself.
Those according to every form of leadership training on the planet are the worst leaders you'll ever meet. But people who are secure in God's love for them. People who are secure in loving themselves so they don't need that. Then they have an ability to love others. In your family, in your marriage, with your kids. If you are a needy person, who needs accolades, who needs to be agreed with, who needs to be recognized, and can't be disagreed with. Because this first quadrant, you got to focus on that. Stop looking to people to do what only God's love for you can do. And if you're sure that God loves you but you got a lot of negative talk about yourself. You know, they say that the average person has thinking is self-talk. Thinking according to some people is you asking yourself questions and you answering those questions at 1200 words a minute is what the definition of thinking is for some of the psychologists that are out there.
Now, you talk at 150 words a minute but you think at 1200 words a minute. And they say 70 percent of people's thought life is purely negative. Ain't that depressing? And that this self-talk doesn't shut off even at night. You go to bed and this self-talk, "I'm stupid. I don't fit in. This is not going to work out. This is not to be good". And when you wake up, the self-talk is still going. So no wonder that this topic of love has become the most important topic to a born again believer because once you give your life to Jesus Christ, and you say, "I come into my heart". This God of love comes in and you finally have agape love, not phileo. That, you know, the word for love that is an earthly love. There's an agape love. And this love that is the God kind of love gives you an ability to love people beyond your own ability. And you can even love without knowing someone.
One of our services I ended the service and walked down to the front. A man walked up and shook my hand and he just said, "You know," He said, "I'm an atheist but I love this church. I just want to say that message really touched me. Thank you". And he shook my hand. And as he walked off, I just looked and said, "I love you, man". Who, did he lose it. Turned around angry. He said, "Don't you tell me you love me. You don't know me". I was taken aback. And I thought being truthful and genuine is very important to this man. Should be all of us. I say, "God, I don't know what to say to him". And then it dropped, just like that it dropped into my spirit. And I said, "It isn't, it's interesting. That a father can meet his new daughter and his new son one day old. And love them so entirely he'd lay his life down for them. In the next week, they will poop on him, pee on him, cry on him up. Keep him up all night. Do nothing to earn his love and you still would have to kill him to touch that baby".
Love isn't just about knowing someone. There's an ability to love without knowing some, that's a God kind of love of loving. For the future of your generations, I hope you'll deal with the three quadrants of love. I hope you recognize that love isn't just rolling over. Love isn't just blind obedience to whoever the leader is. Love isn't just going, "Well, let's just walk in love". Meaning roll over. No. Love is building a nation for the future. Love is building your company for your future. Love is building your marriage, your kids, your family. So that there's hope. There's with wisdom. There's a future. There's something ahead of you to live for. And only history will often tell us the men and the women who stood up and loved. And love to such a depth that their lives impacted the future, impacted their kids, impacted their families.