Back in 2020, AIM Co-Founder, Don Brewster explained that there are 3 universal needs that every person strives to fulfill. These were taken from a passage in Matthew:
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from Heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love: With Him I am well pleased.”Matthew 3:16-17 (emphasis added)
- “This is my Son” – belonging. We all want to be a part of something.
- “Whom I love” – love. We all want to be loved.
- “With Him I am well pleased.” – purpose. We all want to have a purpose beyond ourselves and fulfill that purpose as Jesus did.
At AIM, it is our main goal to help meet those needs for survivors of trafficking and others we serve.
In this series, we will walk through how these three things are truly universal needs for each and every one of us if we want to step into an abundant and joyful life. We’ll also see just how each of us can help others realize they belong, they are loved, and they have a purpose.
God doesn’t promise us an easy life or one that is free of pain, suffering, or hardship. But, through Him, we can have a different kind of abundance and joy. Let’s see what this is all about.
It’s the week of ~love~ (at the time of this posting) and we want to talk about it. Not the mushy, hallmark card kind of love that everyone thinks of on Valentine’s Day. No, we’re talking about the overarching concept of love. The one that’s needed for survival – according to scientists and the Bible.
Love and belonging go hand-in-hand. On Maslow’s pyramid of needs love and belonging are even on the same level. But one could argue, love comes first. We know we belong when we feel loved.
Psychology Today says, “The need to be loved could be considered one of our most basic and fundamental needs.”
As a child, we crave the love of a caregiver who gives us safety, security, and other physical needs like food. Scientists say love is necessary for emotional and mental development. Without love, a child can experience developmental delays, social delays, and more. On the other hand, children who receive a healthy form of love thrive and grow! As we get older and can provide the basic needs for ourselves, we still turn to family, friends, and significant others for love. Adults still need love. Being in a mutually loving relationship (platonic or romantic) decreases depression, anxiety, and, of course, loneliness. Just as we were made for community, we were made to love and to be loved!
In the Bible, Jesus points to two Old Testament passages as the most important commandments:
- Deuteronomy 6:5 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.
- Leviticus 19:18 – Love your neighbor as yourself.
We can see how God created us for love right from the beginning. Author and theologian, John Piper, says, “Everything in the Old Testament, when properly understood, aims basically to transform men and women into people who fervently love God and their neighbor.” In the New Testament, Jesus is the ultimate example of love in his life, death, and resurrection. Again, Piper says, “In the life and death of Christ we see in a new way what God’s love is and what man’s love for God and for others should be.”
God created us for a life of love. And not that mushy Valentine’s Day love. Deep, fulfilling love that transforms our hearts.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”– John 13:34
What love isn’t
Our culture has put a weird spin on love, hasn’t it? Just take a look at some of the most popular “reality” shows like the Bachelor, Love Is Blind, Love Island… In fact, at the time of this posting, Netflix will be airing its newest dating show sensation – The Perfect Match (on February 14th, 2023).
Now, don’t get me wrong, you will most likely catch me watching this and other shows selling this fake idea of love because it’s entertaining and silly. But what’s so enticing about reality TV is how far from reality it actually is. (Nothing against those who choose to participate, apparently sometimes it works.)
The point is, most of these shows throw love around like it’s a picture-perfect, soulmate moment – when you see that person and just know. While we know that shows like this are exaggerated and ironically unrealistic, it still puts a picture in our minds that we need to achieve that sort of love.
One of the more recent, culturally-driven lies about love is that it is about you. To be blunt – modern love is selfish and self-serving. One of the biggest ways we see this, especially in our work in anti-trafficking, is through the popularity and demand for pornography. Let’s get this straight – porn is not love. It does not depict love or glorify love and it definitely doesn’t glorify the Creator of love.
We could say a lot about porn. In fact, we have (and here and here). There are many organizations that focus on this issue as well (Covenant Eyes, Exodus Cry, and Fight the New Drug), so we’ll let them do most of the talking. But for now, the point is, pornography pushes an unrealistic and unhealthy view of sex, relationships, and love. Let’s not confuse this dangerous industry with what God created and how He created us.
A final thought on what love is not – love is not a feeling. Feelings are fickle. While we shouldn’t discount our feelings and emotions, we often give them too much control in our relationships and with love. Take our relationship with Christ for example. There are times in life when we might not “feel” God. We might not feel that He is close. Part of faith is trusting that he is, no matter how we feel. We have to trust that he loves us and return that love despite our fickle feelings.
This post has reflected a lot on the misconceptions of love as demonstrated by culture. It’s not the cheery Valentine’s Day article that one might expect. But that’s okay! Read on to take a look at what love IS. We’ll give you a hint, it’s a lot better than what you see on TV.
What love is
What is love, baby don’t hurt me!
Have you ever actually read the lyrics to this song? It’s almost reminiscent of a psalm (almost…). The writer is crying out to his love –
So what is right and what is wrong?”
On and on. If you read the lyrics without the upbeat tempo behind them, it’s actually kind of sad. What does this guy have to do to get his love’s love? His original question is telling – he is questioning what love actually is. I would venture to guess this relationship isn’t one of healthy love.
There are 13 definitions of love in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The first (for the verb form) is – “strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties”.
As for a verb, the dictionary says, “To hold dear.”
However, here at AIM, we tend to like Bible definitions. Here’s what the Word has to say about love –
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
We like Bible definitions because we believe that God created us and the Bible lays out life in His terms. This is why we look to this version of love. 1 Corinthians 13 lists a lot about what love is not. Let’s use this to look at what love is.
- Love is being patient with others
- Love is showing kindness (even when you don’t receive kindness)
- Love is encouraging of others and their accomplishments, not exaggerating our own
- Love is honoring, it puts others first
- Love is putting our own needs second
- Love is seeking to understand someone before turning to anger or frustration
- Love is a clean slate, giving second and third and fourth, and fifth chances
- Love is being vulnerable
- Love is a safe space
- Love is trusting
- Love is putting hope in the future
- Love is continuing to put in the effort, even when it’s hard
- Love is not giving up
Look at that, 13 definitions of love from the Bible too!
That’s a long list of a lot of big ideas. Try this thought exercise –
Think of a loving relationship you’re in or you know of. It can be a parent-child relationship, a spouse or romantic relationship, or even your relationship with God. Now, think of each of these definitions in light of that relationship. A parent is patient with their child. We are kind to our friends. Our partner encourages our accomplishments. We put God above ourselves (and others, for that matter). Take some time today to think of love in this way. However, approach this exercise without judgment. This isn’t to grade whether you love well or if others love you well. This is to recognize what love is so we can move into a space of loving others well and being loved well. And (in case you missed our previous post) when we love others well, we show that they belong!
Stick with us as we take a closer look at what it looks like to share love with others!
Sharing Love with Others
Before we can share love, we must first accept it for ourselves. How can we share a love we have not yet received? Scripture invites us, as God’s beloved, to “put on love”, and let it overflow into every crevice of our lives, our character, and our relationships.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.– Colossians 3:12
All over the Bible, we see evidence of this truth: we are deeply loved. Now, it’s easy to know that with our hearts, but sometimes it’s tough to remember that with our minds. In case you’re needing a reminder – here it is.
His love for you is measureless.
Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Psalm 36:5
His love for you is unconditional.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
His love for you is everlasting.
I have loved you with an everlasting love. Jeremiah 31:3
His love for you is great.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5
You are known and loved by our everlasting Father. You are beloved.
When we have received love ourselves, we can extend it to others.
This is how God showed his love among us: He send his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and send his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.– 1 John 4:9-12
When we share love with others, we reflect God in our actions. So, how can we actually share love with others?
Love others with unconditional love. This is much easier said than done, but it is when we recognize that we ourselves are unconditionally loved that we can begin to show this kind of love.
A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you much love one another. John 13:34
Love others with patience and kindness.
Love is patient, love is kind. 1 Corinthians 13:4
Love others first.
We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19
In receiving love ourselves, we unlock our ability to share love with others. Love has the power to change the lives and hearts of those who are loved and those who love!
A story of love
In our work, fighting human trafficking, we often see love distorted. Men (and sometimes women) exploit the beautiful gift of intimacy in the most horrendous ways. Our hearts break for the girls (and boys) who are subjected to this awful manipulation of what God created for good. We know that His heart breaks even more than ours. He is a God of true love, justice, and righteousness. So we pray for those who have been traumatized by exploitation, abuse, and trafficking. We pray that they can experience love as it was meant to be.
The beautiful thing is – we have actually seen, again and again, how women and girls are healed and how they open up to love again! It’s only through being loved and seeing the love of Christ exemplified, that these girls are able to heal and grow and show love themselves.
Now, many of those who have come through our restoration programs are wives and mothers! What previously brought pain – such as relationships with men or family members who may have sold or abused them – God is able to heal so that these women can experience full and pure relationships as He intended. It is truly incredible. We praise God for the transformation and hope that is possible through His love.
Another amazing thing to see is the forgiveness that takes place when there is room for love. As anyone who has experienced a traumatic event will tell you – the healing process is a lifelong journey. But for some, a part of this healing is forgiving those who hurt them. Whether it’s forgiving the one who sold them or the one who abused them, we have seen incredibly strong women channel the real love they experience to forgive these people, pray for these people, and move past the hurt they caused.
Finally, we see love exemplified as survivors of trafficking are moved to protect the vulnerable around them. They know how important love is. They know how it can be distorted and manipulated. Some of those who go through our Restoration Programs become teachers to show students love and support through their education. Others become members of our SWAT Team to fight for victims so they can experience love themselves! And still, others become social workers, to help survivors embrace freedom and love as it was meant to be.
“Every day I would see the staff and the way they lived. They were very different from the people I knew in my past. They lived a life of love. Because of their example I began to believe in Jesus.”– Linda*, Former Resident at AIM’s Restoration Home
*Pseudonym used to protect the identity of the survivor.
This is the second of a three-part series on the 3 universal needs of humans. Check out the other posts for more!