ON THE NATURE OF LOVE
It is Valentines Day and perhaps it is a good time to write about love. The word love is used frequently in the Bible. In the English Standard Version, the word love is found 551 times. But love in the Bible is very different from the way we use the word in our modern western society. We love ice cream, we love baseball, we love the Saints (an NFL football team for those who might not know). Frequently, love describes the torrent, warm, fuzzy feelings that moon-eyed lovers feel.
God’s love for us is incomprehensible. Why does God love us when we are all about hatred and rebellion against God? Yet God has loved us and loved us to the point of becoming flesh so that he might live with us, like us and for us.
Human love, at its very best is like a small version of God’s love. We love others who are often unloving or unlovable. The Bible speaks of brotherly love and it describes marital love in terms like “be unto your husband as unto the Lord, and husbands love your wives as Christ love the church and gave himself for her.”
While there is nothing wrong with feelings, biblical love has nothing to do with how we feel. We are commanded to love. It is hard to command a feeling. Love is a disposition, an attitude, a state of being. It what we are when we pursue Christ, or, maybe we should say, as Christ pursues us.
I like feelings. I am often deeply moved as my church can tell you. My feelings for my wife grow deeper each day we live. But feelings can never override real love. Here is what I mean. Love can be hard. Love sometimes requires us to say no or exercise discipline, like denying an addict support for his addiction. God disciplines his people when they do not obey his Law because not obeying his law leads to great harm. In fact Scripture says that if we are not disciplined then we are not real children of God.
True love is not defined by the romantics, it is defined by God. Romantic love is explosive but it fades with time to ether be replaced by a deeper love or to die a horrible death.
God’s love is truly powerful and dangerous. When it takes hold of a man or a woman, it can be world changing. It causes people to go to foreign lands as missionaries. It causes people to live godly lives in the midst of malignant immorality. It causes men and women to work through difficulty long after the thrill is gone. Love causes soldiers to go to war to protect their nation. Love sits by the bedside of the dying holding a hand until the last breath comes. Love of God leads hundreds of thousands to die for their faith every year. Love has compelled believers to die for their faith since the resurrection of Jesus. Love gives a simple cup or water or a meal or clothing to those in need. And love compels us to tell others about what Christ has does for us and the salvation that we can have because of the love of God.
However, we all know that our human efforts at love often fail. We are fallen, struggling creatures who are being saved but not yet made holy. So, when we fail, and we will, we turn to our unending source of love, God. We love because we have been invited to fellowship with the Father, in the Son, and through the Holy Spirit. The Father loves us because we are in Christ. We love because the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives and who more than adequately supplies all of our needs.
The following are just a few of my favorites verses from the Bible about love.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (Joh 3:16 ESV)
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Joh 13:34-35 ESV)
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph 4:1-3 ESV)
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb 10:24-25 ESV)
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1Jo 4:7-11 ESV)
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. (Eph 5:1-3 ESV)
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, (Eph 5:25 ESV)