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What Does Real Love Look Like?

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
February 6, 2022 9:00 pm

What Does Real Love Look Like?

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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February 6, 2022 9:00 pm

What does love look like? Author Sean McDowell looks at the difference between real love, sex, and our craving to be known.

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So, if you want to know how to find out what love really is, where do you go?

Where do you get a good explanation, definition? Do you want my Jesus answer, like to the Bible, or do you want what most people would say? Most people, because I'm going to tell you what I would say. Maybe the movies? Music? Oh, music! I would say music.

He just pulled out his guitar. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson.

And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. It's crazy to think, you know, we go to love songs and the lyrics usually don't lead us to what real love is.

But you're right. Every generation, every decade, we're asking the same question. Yeah. And so we need help. And we've got help in the studio with us today.

We've got Dr. Sean McDowell, who wrote a book with the title of love in it, Chasing Love, Love, Sex, and Relationships in a Confused Culture. I was going to say that that subtitle is really good, because I think as parents, as people, we're asking those questions. They're at the forefront of our mind in this culture for our kids, because it is confusing and we're not really sure how to talk to our kids and what to say. And maybe it's causing us to think, what do I believe and think of this? Yeah. And really, of all people to talk about this and write about this, you have such credentials. You teach at Biola doctorate in apologetics.

I mean, you've traveled the world. You have a podcast about apologetics. You teach at a high school as well, right?

I do part time. Yeah. So you're around young people all the time and you're hearing their questions and their concerns. And so here we are often talking to parents and we as parents are like, OK, how do we help teach and guide our young children in our homes as they become teenagers and understanding love, sex and relationships? And you've got all of those in your book. So we figured let's talk love today.

Let's do it. Here's the first question, though. Why this book?

I mean, why now? I would say there's a few answers to that. One of them is Scottie, Shauna and Shane, which are my three kids. My oldest is 17 and I actually use this as a textbook in a classroom with him. So we have to go chapter by chapter at my private school. You used your book. Absolutely. Oh, that's why I wrote it. I could talk with my kids about it in different ways.

Yeah. Then my daughter's 14. She'll be a high school freshman.

She's a volleyball player, surfer, blonde from Southern California. So I have all the concerns, especially as a dad. And then my son is eight, my youngest and going into third grade next year. Yeah. So as you go through this with your son and daughter, did they make edits? Did they agree?

Did they push back? So with my daughter, what's interesting, she was 12 when I first started to write it. She just turned 14. And I told her, I said, hey, if you'll read this manuscript and number one, give me feedback. Number two, just go to coffee with me and just talk about it. I'll buy you a pair of new shoes. And my family, as you know, we love shoes.

She goes, Dad, there's an outlet down the street. I could get two for the price of one. Is that OK?

I was like, you could get three for the price of one. So bribing is OK at times. You know what? It's whatever it takes.

Yeah. So she read the whole thing, took notes through it. And then we went out to a coffee shop. We sat down somewhere to an hour, an hour and a half. And she was like, here's my favorite example.

Here's something I learned. I was like, what do you think about this chapter? And we just talked it through father and daughter. There were no lectures, just a big piece of this was just helping her feel comfortable talking with her dad. And we had done this kind of thing before. But we walked through the content. She gave me a little feedback and I went and bought her a couple of pair of shoes. Wow. And you did it. So now my son, this was in a classroom.

The cool thing that I loved is by the time we. So I teach at Biola full time, grad program and undergrad one class. What do you teach?

I'll teach theology, apologetics, kind of gospel culture, spiritual conversations, evangelism, stuff like that. But I teach one high school class part time at a private school. And my son is in that class. And it's juniors and seniors.

So 16, 18 year olds. And we were using this book, amongst others. And one of his feedback, he goes, Dad, you and I have already talked about this stuff. There was not a ton new to me. And he kind of almost felt bad saying that. I was like, that's awesome. Because that means we've been having these conversations for a while. And it just gave me a chance to reinforce. Way to go. What? It felt good. You know, the question is always they know it in their head.

Are they going to live it out? That's step two. Exactly. You know, that's that's really why I wrote it, to just give parents a tool to have these conversations with their kids.

Yeah. And as we read it, it's a great, great tool. I mean, just and you even have a small group or a workbook to go with it, which you got a nine session Bible study for teens.

We'll have that on our website at But I mean, what a great discussion to start with a 12, 13, 14 year old, because they're having a discussion everywhere. And it's confusing what they're hearing in your subtitles. So where do you start when you get to the love question? Because the culture saying love is this.

Where do you start and what, how would you define what real love is? One of the things I try to do in conversation with my kids is not unnecessarily demonize culture. So one of the things I point out to my son in our class, we talked about how, you know, the huge Marvel movies that climax recently with Endgame. The final episode is Iron Man laying down his life sacrificially as an act of heroism and love.

Like, what does that remind us of? Jesus said, greater love hath no man than this, that a man laid down his life for a friend. So sometimes our culture gets love, right? Sometimes our culture gets love wrong. So for many in this generation, love basically equals affirmation.

Whatever you believe, however you choose to live and understand yourself. I'm only loving if I affirm that. Well, that's not a biblical view of love. A biblical view of love is that I am in favor of what's objectively best for you, whether you realize it or not, to seek the emotional, spiritual, relational best and good for another, even if they don't realize it.

I mean, ironically, the people who put Jesus to death thought they were doing what was good, but they're putting the only innocent man ever to death. So something's not right just because we feel it or just because we choose it. So that's where it gets difficult for this generation is they intuitively understand that love has been in favor of somebody's best, but they have a hard time realizing, you know what? Sometimes that means someone might disagree with you. Sometimes they might not like you.

They might call you a bigot, but real love is being committed to another's best and being willing to sacrifice for it. I am so interested in that, because even when you said as parents, we can demonize the culture and I think we do that. I remember when my kids were in high school, I found myself doing that because I was so fearful and I wanted them to be fear. Like, no, this is evil. And so thinking that will cause them to pull away. I think it made them more curious, like, what do you mean by that? You know? And as parents, I think we need to look at why are we doing that?

Yeah. And I would just add that I think, you know, even sitting with you at lunch and just watching your life and pretty cool to see your YouTube channel blowing up and watching you interact with people with different viewpoints, different theology. There's a gentleness in your spirit that communicates love, even when you are disagreeing absolutely on the other side of the issue. You're honoring everyone. And I don't think we in the church have done a very good job of that. That's loving.

I think you're right about that. I mean, Jesus spoke truth, but he had a kindness. He had a gentleness about him.

He turned the other cheek. Sometimes, Christians, we contribute just as much to the cancel culture as everybody else does. We name call.

I mean, look on social media how quick we Christians just criticize and say things to defend ourselves or win an argument rather than ask the question, what does it mean to love this person the way that Jesus did? Now, that's hard for us who are adults. And our identity, you know, the three of us, we understand who we are and who God made us to be. But imagine being 12.

Imagine being 14. And they're trying to figure out who they are. These messages from the surrounding culture are just powerful. So a huge piece of this question of like love is a part of a larger question. Who am I? Who did God make me to be?

What's his design for my life? What does it really mean to love other people? Those questions sometimes get lost when we just get into the nitty gritty of sex, love and relationships. I want to frame this in terms of what is love? How do we love God? How do we love other people? Then some of the questions about sexuality start to fall in place.

Yeah, start there because you do that early in the book, you take that question of love and you go vertical with the love God and love others. So help a parent understand, okay, how would I teach this to my child to say this is a biblical, godly understanding of what love is, and as you said, get into identity, who they are? Well, one of the best ways to teach something is by asking questions. I ask a ton more questions with my kids and in my classroom than I do just sitting my kids down and go, let me give you a definition about this. So a song comes up on the radio, you know, sometimes I'll talk with my kids.

If something pops up in a movie, if it pops up in a song, I'll just talk with my kids and I'll say something like, you know, that's pretty interesting. What do you think about that view of relationships? Do you think that's really loving?

And try to cultivate conversation more than saying, hey, open this up, let me give you a definition. Although sometimes I do that with my kids as well. So defining love, my dad actually did this with me when I was a kid, took me to Ephesians chapter five, where it says, husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church. And then it says, love your wives as you do your own bodies.

So if you want to know how to love your wife, the question is, how do you love your own body? It says nurture and cherish it. Well, without getting into the depth in that passage, essentially, and I go into all this in the book, essentially, it means to protect and to provide is what love is.

So I've said to my son, if you're in a relationship with a girl, the words that you say, your physical touch, the way you treat her, if you love her, you would act in a way that would protect her and provide for her best. That comes from Ephesians chapter five. So when I was 12 or 13, I remember my dad sharing that with me.

And it kind of stuck with me, so to speak, almost like a funnel when I would hear these songs about love, I'd be thinking, well, are they looking out for themselves and what feels good, or are they really protecting and providing for another? You know, it's interesting that you mentioned your dad because, you know, Josh McDowell, I was on the college campus in the 70s. He came to Ball State University. I picked him up at the airport.

I was a part of Athletes in Action, a branch of crew. And it was before the Why Wait, I think, in the 70s, because Why Wait was more 80s. But isn't it interesting that he's sort of a focal point of Why Wait, a campaign that helps young people stay pure sexually until marriage. And now you're writing a book, you know, there's a legacy connection there, and your dad teaching you about love. What did you get from your dad about love, even as you watch your mom and dad? And did you question any of the things that they were teaching you at the time?

Yes, on both of those. I appreciate that you observed that because writing this was kind of coming full circle, going back and saying, what did my parents teach me? What do I maybe disagree with?

And, you know, how has this conversation changed? And what do I agree with? I would say hands down, the most powerful lesson that my father gave me, along with that definition of love, is that sex is not bad. It's good, and it's beautiful. And God's commandments are to protect and provide for us. It's a positive, not a negative.

And that's why he started the Why Wait campaign is he said in the 80s, that culture, even the church, which is sex is bad, and it's wrong. He's like, No, it's it's good. It's a blessing.

It's, it's beautiful. But God has given us guidelines to protect us, to provide for us. So that lens has been one of the biggest things that I've taken away from growing up, probably an area where I differ a little bit is if you go back to just the way sexuality was taught in the 80s and 90s, there was almost no discussion about singleness.

There was none. And I would argue that as a whole, as a church, I think we made an idol out of marriage too much. Marriage is beautiful. The Bible starts with a marriage. It ends with a wedding. You know, Ten Commandments, Mother and Father are three of the Ten Commandments Jesus taught in marriage, Paul taught in marriage.

It's huge. It's the metaphor God chooses to demonstrate his love for the church. But if you read First Corinthians seven, and Matthew 19, being married and being single are two equal God honoring ways of being in relationship. And I think we downplayed singleness, and we're reaping some of the consequences for that now that less people are getting married, and they're getting married later. The church in many circles feels like, well, that's just for married people, not for singles.

It's kind of an add on. And so, in the middle section of the book, once I lay out the beginning, kind of clearing away some of the false ideas, I say, here's God's idea for sex, its design, and then singleness, I intentionally put it first, and then God's design for marriage. So that's a piece that I think has been left out of teachings on sexuality in the church as a whole, that is just frankly not balanced and biblical. So as parents, how do we have that conversation? You're right, we do that as parents, like when you get married, how would we shift that and talk to our kids at the age your kids are right now?

So when I tuck my son in at night, and I pray for him, we pray for a few things, and I'll just say something like, when I'm praying, I'll say, you know, God, if Shane gets married someday, may you protect his future spouse and prepare him for that marriage. I choose to qualify it that way, because Jesus was single, Paul was single, I think Jeremiah was, John the Baptist was, even Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 is like, I wish you were like me. And the other thing that does is I talk to college students, and they feel like they got to get married right away, that even if you get married someday, there's a season of singleness that we shouldn't look past. So I just frame it with my kids a little bit differently, and sometimes if we have single people over, like in my classroom, I talked about, we had a conversation one day like, hey, who are some of the single teachers on campus?

What do you think are the challenges they've thought about? Have you ever gone to lunch with them and asked them about their life, and the students are like, I've never thought about this. I'm like, well, they're a part of the church, you should be curious about their experience.

So it's just, that's one correction amongst others that I've tried to bring in in the book. You know, I know one of the most beautiful moments of my life, and we've mentioned it here before, and you just mentioned praying with your son about, you know, his future spouse. You know, your daughter, her future husband, I took Fridays for the last 35 years.

I know that because my oldest is 35. So when he was born, I decided Friday is my fast day, food-wise, and I'm going to pray for his future spouse before she was even born. And so you can imagine on wedding day for all three sons, I'm the dad, but I'm also the pastor, and I'm looking at this young woman who doesn't know that I've been praying for her. I didn't know her name, but I prayed exactly, when you said that, I'm like, oh, I prayed the exact prayer, protect her, provide for her a woman of God. And I'm telling you, I look at her with tears in my eyes, not just because she's my son, but it's like, look at what God brought. And also, all through those years, not doing it perfectly, but trying to teach our young, we had just had three sons, so it's like trying to teach them what love looks like and how to protect and love a woman.

And so hearing you say that, it's like, what a great action step either to do either one of those. Do what John does every night with his son and daughter. Do what we've done or figure out your own way to say, I'm going to get on my knees for my children, not only to teach them about love, to show them what love looks like, but to pray that God would protect them and provide for them in a powerful, powerful way.

I just think, man, if listeners, if that's their action step as a result of today, wow, that could be pretty powerful. And Shawn, what would your action step be as we talk about love, as our listeners and parents are thinking, oh, yeah, what can I do? What would you suggest with their kids? I would say have specific conversations with your kids. So I'm actually pretty convinced that most young people, even in the church, best Christian school families, some of the best homeschool families, best churches have imbibed far more secular ideas about love than biblical ideas. And the best way to service this is just in conversation, asking questions and listening can make a huge amount of headway with our kids. So worldview is largely passed on through intentional conversations and relationships. If you haven't had this conversation, start it now.

If you've had, be encouraged to go continue it and do it even more. That's really good. Figure out where your kids are listening to and sit down and listen to it with them and don't judge it immediately.

That's right. I can't believe you're listening to this. I did that.

I totally did that when I first was in high school. I'm like, this is from Satan. So I take this. It was a CD. I throw it in the trash can.

She did. I remember this. I'm so glad I'm married to Dave because he takes it out of the trash can. He's like, hey, let's just kind of listen to this.

And I was so overwhelmed and fearful, which caused me to react instead of respond. But I'm so glad that Dave was like that, because what you're saying is don't demonize what they're listening to because it shuts down their hearts immediately. It does. I think that's really wise just to ask questions. Oh, you may hate the song.

You may think this is the raunchiest music or movie that you've ever seen. But to say, tell me what you think about this. And you know what?

That doesn't mean there's not a time to go, you know what? This is out of bounds. I've done that sometimes. I've been like, you know what?

This is garbage. Listen to what they're saying, buddy. Stop listening to this. And sometimes I've come back and be like, you know what? I overreacted.

I'm sorry. That's usually what I do. It's okay to make those mistakes. But erring on the side of not overreacting and shutting down conversation and inviting it more often than not works better. That's good advice. Listen first. Amen.

And then comment. That's biblical. That is. Thanks, Shawn.

It's been great. Jesus is the one who told us that we're to be as wise as serpents, but as gentle as doves. And so much of that applies to parenting.

And of course, the book of James says we're to be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. And that applies to parenting as well. Great advice today from Shawn McDowell, talking with Dave and Ann Wilson. In fact, you may know someone who would benefit from this conversation. You can point them to the Family Life Today podcast. There's a link on our website at family life today dot com, or it's available wherever you get podcasts. And if you're listening to Family Life Today as a podcast, be sure to leave a review and a rating.

It helps spread the word about family life today. Shawn has written a book called Chasing Love, Sex, Love and Relationships in a Confused Culture. This would be a great book for parents to go through with teens or for a youth group to go through together. But it's not just a teenage book. Shawn tackles questions like, what do I do if I'm not happy in marriage? Can sexual sin be truly forgiven? What does the gospel say about LGBTQ issues?

Other questions like that. We want to make this book available to you as our way of saying thank you for your ongoing support of the Ministry of Family Life Today. This program, this podcast is available because listeners like you make it happen. Those of you who have given in the past, those of you who are monthly partners with us on family life today, you make this program possible not just for yourself, but for the hundreds of thousands of people who tune in every day.

So thank you for your support. If you're able to help with a donation today, you can request your copy of Shawn McDowell's book, Chasing Love, Sex, Love and Relationships in a Confused Culture. We'll send it to you as our way of saying thank you for your support of the work of family life.

We are grateful for your partnership with us. You can donate online at or you can call to donate. Our number is 1-800-FL-TODAY. That's 1-800-358-6329.

1-800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Now I hope most of you are getting together regularly with other couples you know, other people, maybe it's in a church small group or with folks in your neighborhood. I don't know what the context is, but I hope you're getting together with others to dig into God's word as it relates to marriage and family. You know, we're convinced here at Family Life that the best way for us to grow in godliness is to do it in community. And we put together resources designed to help small groups be able to engage with what God's word has to say about marriage and family. We've got video series like The Art of Marriage, The Art of Parenting, David Ann Wilson's Vertical Marriage.

I did a series called Love Like You Mean It from my book by the same name. If you're looking for resources that your small group can use related to marriage or parenting, go to our website Right now, between now and February 18th, if you use the promo code NewYear2022, you'll save 25% off any small group order.

So if you're looking for some great small group resources and you'd like to save a little money, go to and you can order from us there. Now, have you ever stopped to ask yourself the question, would the world be a better place if everybody followed Jesus' view of human sexuality? And do we understand what Jesus' view of human sexuality is?

Does the Bible tell us? Tomorrow, David Ann Wilson will talk with Sean McDowell about that. Sean will be back with us. Hope you can be back with us as well. On behalf of our hosts, David Ann Wilson, I'm Bob Lapeen. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-08 19:31:42 / 2023-06-08 19:42:16 / 11

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