It was a cold and foggy night last December. I was on the train to London. At one stop a young woman boarded and sat just across from me. She wore an elegant, burgundy dress and delicate jewelry. In her arms were a dozen red roses. Her wistful smile suggested a tender memory.

Her adorned presence announced that love was in the air. It made the trip a bit more pleasant, which brings me to this thought. Love makes your trip through life more pleasant, doesn’t it? The challenge, though, is knowing what true love is, and how to recognize and express it.

It’s an easy challenge if you can define love any way you please. But you can’t. As country singer Johnny Lee croons, “I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.” To make matters worse, love and hate are weaponized these days. Contradict someone’s choices and you risk being called a hater. “The so-called new morality has increased the confusion,” George Sweeting wrote, “by stating that there are no absolutes in our world except love and that whatever is done in love must be right.”

It’s true that we need an absolute standard for love. “Anything goes” is a confusing, harmful idea. The right standard is what the Bible says: “God is love.” He defines and demonstrates love. “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the (payment) for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn. 4). God expresses love for you by addressing the truth about your soul’s need for a Savior.

God’s standard for love includes embracing truth and taking action. To ignore, endure, or propagate a lie is not loving. Francis Schaeffer wrote, “The Christian has to practice both God’s holiness and God’s love…Not love without holiness – that is only compromise.” True love brooks no compromise with what God has revealed to be right and good. True love is sacrificial, which Jesus knew when He said to love one another “just as I have loved you” (John 15:12). True love is patient, humble, and selfless. It bears burdens, forgives wrongs, and is not easily offended (1 Cor. 13). To pursue these is to adorn yourself with the Father’s love. “Someone must love you,” I said to the young woman on the train. She smiled. “Actually, these are for my dad. He has been abroad for a long time, so I decided to dress up to meet him at the airport!” She adorned herself to express love. But her father loved her first.