Is love all you need? We live in a time when many offer “love” as the solution for every problem. Consider What the World Needs Now Is Love By The Chambers Brothers, for example.
What did Jesus intend when He used the word “love”? What would He have thought of that song?
What motivated this post? On the post OF TWISTED WORDS => LANGUAGE TO DIVIDE AND TO CONQUER, tsalmon took the debate in an unexpected direction. Apparently, he decided that that post was broken and could be repaired with an infusion of love. When Keith DeHavelle, expressed sadness (here), I decided I might be pressing on a sensitive nerve a bit too carelessly. So here is a more careful explanation of why I believe in God, not love.
Humility And Christian Love
The ancient pagans did not consider humility a virtue. The royal class fashioned itself nearer to the gods than the subordinate classes. The king presented himself as the son of a god or as a god in his own right. Why would a king exhibit humility before cattle? What would possess the son of a god to love cattle? Why would the nobility, the friends of the king love cattle?
Jesus initiated a change. In his book, Who Is This Man?, John Ortberg examines the effect Jesus’ life has had upon our world. Because we are so immersed in our own culture and the changes instituted by Jesus, few American Christians appreciate the magnitude of the differences between our culture and that of the ancients. Jesus actually taught us to see each other differently. He taught us to love differently.
Jesus demonstrated God shows no partiality. Here the Apostle Paul put it explicitly.
Galatians 3:28 New King James Version (NKJV)
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
How did Jesus teach us to love each other? I wrote a series of three posts (that ended here, A BIBLE STUDY: ARE CHRISTIANS SUPPOSE TO LOVE EVERYONE THE SAME WAY? — PART 3) that consider what the Bible has to say about love. Unlike us, the ancients had different words for different types of love. The second post describes agape love.
agape – the deepest, greatest form of love, it is sacrificial and unconditional, used in the Bible
Jesus taught that Christians should strive to love even their enemies. We must care about everyone, even people we don’t like. We must strive to lead all our brothers and sisters to Jesus Christ, not just certain people.
John 1:12-13 New King James Version (NKJV)
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Jesus taught there is only one God, and we that we can all be His children. He made it clear that because Our Lord cares for each of us even kings should love and care for their people.
Matthew 23:11-12 English Standard Version (ESV)
11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Christian love, then, begins in humility to God. That is true even in marriage. The Bible calls upon a husband to love his wife as Jesus loved the church, and it calls upon a wife to so conduct herself as to lead her husband to Christ.
WHY DOES GOD WANT US TO LOVE?
Imagine life as slave, a drudge tied to the land. Imagine living a seemingly pointless life, existing to do nothing more than to labor for an uncaring lord. Jesus spoke to the hopeless. He said God loves us. He even gave the slaves and the downtrodden the task of giving His message to — and saving — those who sought to be their masters. Before any sought to free the bodies of the enslaved, Jesus freed their hearts to love.
Why is it important to God that we love Him?
1 John 4:20-21 New King James Version (NKJV)
20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
We learn to love God by loving each other, and we strive to be obedient to God because we love Him.
No one knows the mind of God. We only know that the Bible speaks of Him as our Father and of us as His children. Children obey their father and mother to pleased them because they love them. Parents receive the love and obedience of their children with pleasure. Does God, our Father, receive our love and obedience, our worship, with pleasure? Apparently, He does.
Warping The Message Of Love
What has happened to that once great message of Christian love? Doesn’t it still exist? Don’t we fill the air with love songs? Don’t our books, our movies, even our comics all revolve around love’s glories and tragedies? Don’t each of us crave love relationships? Yes, but the problem is that we have made an idol of love. Christians do not love “love”. What Christians love is God.
Love is only one of many virtues. Consider how many virtues Ben Franklin strove to acquire (BENJAMIN FRANKLIN ON PRIDE AND HUMILITY). Franklin did not even put “love” on his list. Perhaps he understood that to love properly he to have all those other virtues.
Love enables us to care for each other. Love enables us to worship God, but love is a means, not an object in and of itself. When the Apostle Paul spoke of love in 1 Corinthians 13, he spoke of love as the greatest of the virtues, the most desirable gift. And he did so in an age when men sought to be honored, not to serve. When we love someone, we desire to serve them.
When Apostle Paul spoke of love, he did not propose that we seek only the gift of love. He said we should seek all the fruits of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-26 New King James Version (NKJV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
What is love worth if we find no joy in it? Without peace within ourselves, can we love another? If we are unwilling to suffer the faults of another, can we love them? If we don’t know how to be kind, how do we show our love? If we don’t know the difference between good and evil — if we don’t have the wisdom to discern the difference, won’t our service others be corrupt? If we are unfaithful won’t our service to others be inconstant? If we cannot control our self — if we are rough and harsh — how can we serve another without hurting them?
God is the sum of all virtue. He is Perfect and Holy. When we focus on Him and seek to be like His Son, we seek all the fruits of the Spirit, not just Love. Only then can we perfect our love.
In Deuteronomy 5, the Bible recapitulates the Ten Commandments. In Deuteronomy 6, the Bible explains that if we love God we will obey Him.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Good News Translation (GNT)
4 “Israel, remember this! The Lord—and the Lord alone—is our God.
5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 Never forget these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Teach them to your children. Repeat them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working. 8 Tie them on your arms and wear them on your foreheads as a reminder. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.
So it is that when we love each other we begin to learn how to worship God.
That’s why I believe in God, not love.