Love in Its Proper Perspective
Probably the most used word in the Bible is love. It is greater than faith or hope (I Cor. 13:13), and is the bond of perfectness (Col.3:14). Knowledge, faith, benevolence, and sacrifice are nothing without love (I Cor. 13:1-3).Everything that we are to do toward God or man is fulfilled in love. We can truthfully say that love is the greatest principle that the world has ever known. Yet, many have misconceptions and warped ideas as to the real meaning of Bible love.
True Meaning of Love
Vines comments that “Love can be known only from the action it prompts”. God showed His love by giving His Son (Jn.3:16) and we manifest our love by action. John wrote, “My little children, let us not love in word, but in deed and truth” (I Jn.3:18).
Vines continues “Christian love has God for its primary object, and expresses itself first of all in implicit obedience to His commandments, John 14: 15, 21, 23, … Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethren or toward men in general, is not an impulse from feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only on those for whom an affinity is discovered. Love seeks the opportunity to do good to 'all men, especially toward them that are of the household of faith' (Gal. 6:10).
Our first duty is to love God. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37). Jesus said, “This is the first and great commandment”. I believe it is greater than the second, “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”, because if we love God we will love our neighbor, but on the other hand, we can love our neighbor without loving God. Remember, love for God is shown by “implicit obedience to His commandments”.
Love for our neighbor is shown by treating him properly (that is, we will not cheat him, covet his possessions, deliberately misrepresent him, lie about him, try to smear his name, etc. Love seeks his benefit, whether it is physical or spiritual. Seeking his benefit spiritually includes our best efforts to lead him to Christ.
Our enemy is to be blessed, done good unto, and prayed for (Matt.5:44, Rom. 12:20-21). Our brother is to be shown kind affection, and preferred over others (Rom. 1 2:10). The indigent are to be helped (Lk. 10:25-37). The lost, whether is an alien sinner or a brother, we manifest our love by trying to save them. In such actions we demonstrate the kind of love that is pleasing to God, whether physical or spiritual in nature.
(I Cor 13:4-7) shows how love truly works. We find several traits of love: Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Humility, Courtesy, Unselfishness, Good Temper, Guilelessness, Sincerity, and Meekness are all Bible components of Love. If we lack any of these traits, we lack that much being a lovely character.
Some think that love will not allow rebuke and chastisement. Not so with God. Ministers have been accused of lacking love because they rebuke and reprove. If ministers (or anyone else) lack love they are nothing, but rebuke and reproof do not necessarily manifest it. Such teaching is done most of the time because of a love for souls and the truth of God. Did not Paul instruct young Timothy to do these express things? One way God shows his love is by chastening (Heb.12:6), and parents do the same thing (Prov.13:24). True love NECESSITATES chastisement. It will not compromise truth or overlook wrong. The flatterer and the compromiser are the ones who lack love. They are mostly interested in themselves. God said “If you love me, keep my commandments”. That cannot be done partially: either we do or we do not.
Some think that love will not permit hate for anything. “If one hates, he doesn't love” seems to be their attitude. But the Bible teaches us that we are to hate certain things. “I hate every false way” (Psa. 119:104) Christ himself hates iniquity (Heb.1:9) and false doctrine (Rev. 2:15). Solomon said of God, “These six things doeth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him” (Prov. 6:16). Yet God is the definition of love (I John 4:8). If then, we are to be like God, we must hate the things God and Christ hate.
Some think that love will nullify obedience. “If we love God with all our hearts, He will overlook a lack of strict obedience to his will” is the idea under consideration. However, strict obedience is how we demonstrated our love. (I John 2:5) “But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected. . .” Genuine love produces obedience. One who will not obey does not love as he ought to love. There are some who just see one side of God, but choose to ignore the demonstrations of the Old Testament of God's severity. Remember Sodom; king Saul, the Egyptian Pharoah and his army, the world in Noah's lifetime. These few examples demonstrate that God has a
severe side that we MUST remember and avoid by obedience. God is love.
Maybe we could say that everybody loves, but not everybody loves the right things. There are too many who love the things of this earth.
Demas (II Tim.4:10) Loved the world. John says, “Love not the world” and gives the reason, “And the world passeth away and the lust thereof...” (I John 2:15-17) Let us remember the world has nothing good to offer for eternity, but if we love God and do His will, we will abide forever. There is simply no future in loving the world.
Many love the praise of men. The chief rulers “loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43) Love of men's praise has caused elders, preachers, and others to compromise the truth and become men-pleasers. There are many examples on your TV on Sunday morning. Such cannot be the servants of Christ (Gal. 1:10).
Some love the preeminence. Diotrephes was one of these. He “loveth to have the preeminence” (III John 9). (Matt. 23:6) indicates the Pharisees were the same way for they loved the chief seats in the synagogue.
Many love themselves. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves. . .” (II Tim. 3:1, 2). These kinds of people are selfish and self-pleasing. They love their own selves too much to deny self, take up their cross and follow Jesus.
Many are lovers of pleasure. “. . . lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (II Tim.3:4) Jesus said pleasures would choke out the Word in Luke 8:14. I understand this to mean excessive pleasures or sinful pleasures. Myriads of people have turned their back on God because of a pleasure craze. Leisure time, partying, sports events, games, and many other pastimes may grow into this fault.
Lovers of money. “For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (I Tim. 6:10) It is not wrong to have money, but to covet after it is wrong. A love for money caused the rich ruler to turn away from Christ (Matt. 19:16-22). It also caused the rich fool to think all was well in his world (Lk.12:16-21). And it caused Ananias and Sapphira to lie to God (Acts 5:1-11).
A love for money has caused murder, divorce, perjury, robbery, war, and numerous other things. Many spend nearly every moment figuring out some way to make another dollar. That leaves God out. Remember, God initially instructed us to “have no other God before me” when instructing Moses. It is still true today.
Love is indispensable and eternal. It is the Christian's badge of discipleship. Jesus said,” BY this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)