The first time I ever said “I love you”, I was talking nonsense. I was 10 years old and I was addressing my childhood crush, the lovely Aisha Adamu.

She was one year older than me, and a total knockout. All the boys on UCC campus where we lived had a thing for Aisha, and I wished with all my heart that she would be my girlfriend, just so the boys would envy me.

So one Valentine’s Day, while we were sitting in the back seat of her mother’s VW Beetle, learning our lines for the school play, I just blurted out the words “I love you”.

Aisha put down her script of Ama Ata Aidoo’s Dilemma of a Ghost and turned to look at me. Then she asked me one question: “Why do you love me?”

After staring at her like a deer caught in headlights for at least 20 seconds, it became clear that my juvenile brain could not come up with a single coherent thought by way of an answer, so I got out of the car and ran all the way home to cry into my pillow.

I was 10 years old. Of course, I had no idea what love meant. I was just saying it because I thought that was what girls wanted to hear.

I’m older now, yet, somehow, I feel none the wiser about what love is. But after several failed relationships, I’m certainly more clear on what love isn’t. Let me explain.

Have you ever been hit with that question – why do you love me? No doubt the things that have come to the forefront of your mind are the numerous things that your loved one does for you, and how those things make you feel. Right?

How they take care of you, how they buy you stuff, cook and clean for you, how they always check on you to see if you’re ok, how they always ask if you have eaten, how they stay up with you when you’re studying, or care for you when you’re sick…how they buy you flowers or order chopshop jollof for you on your lunch break…

Well, one thing I have come to learn is that real love is NOT about what you get. It’s about what you are willing to give. And don’t take my word for it. Who is the world’s number one authority on love? God. Right? Now, if God is the ultimate authority on love, then we’re best off learning from Him what love is, aren’t we? Good.

1 John 4:8 -Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:19 – We love because he first loved us.

John 15:12 and 13 – My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

These verses tell us two things: first that all love originates from God. God IS love. You can’t give or receive love if God is not involved. Second, love is sacrifice. In other words, love is not about what you can get. It’s about what you can give.

You don’t love people because of what they do for you. That’s not love. That’s a transaction. That’s affection offered in payment for goods and services. There’s another term for it, but it’s too early in the morning to be talking about prostitution. 

Love is about sacrifice. It’s when you look at someone and say “there is nothing i wouldn’t do for this person”.

That happy glow you see when a person talks of their love for a spouse or a child, or a friend – that is not the radioactive radiation of gifts received and favours bestowed upon them.

It is the glimmering glow of all the sacrifices they have made – and are willing to make for the ones they love. 

Now, iIm sure you’ve noticed that all the verses i’ve quoted asre by John – either from his fourth gospel or his first epistle. If you’re wondering why, it’s because the only disciple who was ever referred to as the one Jesus loved was this dude, John.

When He was dying on the cross, Jesus left his mother Mary in John’s care. And John himself makes reference to love on so many occasions, leaving us in no doubt that he learned a thing or two about it from the Master Himself.

And look, love is a completely quantifiable and measurable thing. John said so in Chapter 15 verse 13 of his gospel: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”.

That is the ultimate standard. If you love someone, are you ready to die for them? Are you ready to deny yourself comfort, pleasure and resources just for their benefit without expecting ANYTHING in return?

The other measurable thing is that the more you love someone, the more you are willing to sacrifice. What is the most memorised verse in the Bible? John 3:16, right? Yes, John again – the one whom Jesus loved.

And what does it say? ” For God SO LOVED the world that He gave his only begotten son…” In other words, this is how God loved the world: He loved the world so much that He was willing to sacrifice the person He loved the most, just so you and I will be saved. That is the standard, my dear friends. 

So as we head into the ultimate celebration of love this weekend, if you find yourself ready to declare your love for someone, take a pause and ask yourself: what are you willing to sacrifice for that person? And I pray things go better for you than they did for my 10 year-old self and Aisha Adamu.

My name is Kojo Yankson, and everything I do, I do it for you.

Good Morning, GHANAFO!