All You Need is Love

Love is the universal language, right? I suspect everyone would agree that it is what we need most. Love. It conquers all. Men will know us by our … love. The most important thing for a child’s development is … love. By a show of hands we could call this meeting to a close, all agreed. Except, we’re so bad at it. If we know the answer, why can’t we solve the problem? Maybe because we don’t actually understand what love really is.

To understand love, we can turn to Romans 13, or 1 Corinthians 13, both of which address deep love. In Romans Paul shows that true love is demonstrated by obedience to the Law of God. We cannot commit adultery, kill, steal or covet if we love God and love those around us. Such love will guard us from breaking the commandments. In 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul expands on all the things love will and will not do: It’s patient and kind, it doesn’t envy, it doesn’t boast, it doesn’t get prideful, it doesn’t think the worst of people. It seeks good for those around us, even our enemies.

In 1 John, the book’s whole emphasis is on love. We must abide in love, which demonstrates we abide in Christ. This is demonstrated in that we love other Christians (our brothers). Ultimately, though, the love of God is defined by John in that we keep God’s commandments, and His commandments are not a burden to us (1 John 5:3).

These statements from Paul and John relate back to the teachings of Jesus. He taught that if we love God, we will keep His commandments. One commandment is to love the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who loved Jesus, loved God. Those who rejected Jesus as Lord, rejected God and had no love.

Perhaps this is why our world lacks true love. It has rejected the Lord Jesus Christ. Since we need love, we turn to the imitation and counterfeit love. We turn to winsome, self-gratifying love. This is charity, good deed doing, hugging and expressing nice sentiments.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Except that it is the superficial love of a world devoid of the real thing. The divorce rate is high. Couples who once professed love for each other end up on the edge (if not over it) of hating each other. The phrase is, we fell out of love.

This is a sign of the rot that is in us from birth: Sin. The symptom is unfaithfulness. Because of it, we leave our first love and give ourselves to emotional (if not physical) prostitution. Spiritually we do this by seeking another word from God apart from the Bible. Or we start elevating a pastor or Christian celebrity above Christ. In essence, we deny Christ. Some deny Christ on the cross, claiming He was never crucified, or that he died as a man–with the spirit of God no longer on him, or that His death wasn’t payment for sin, but an example of sacrifice. All of this pulls us away from the truth, and away from real love.

The Bible has a couple of terms for love: Agape and Phileo. Agape love is an action. It is the love personified by Jesus on the Cross, paying the penalty for His enemies while they spit upon Him. It is a love that we’re called to as Christians toward God first and toward other Christians and all those around us. Phileo is a brotherly affectionate love. It is the bond between David and Jonathan. It joins with agape in providing the feeling.

We like feeling. TobyMac has a song, “Feel it” in which he declares “That’s. How. I. Know.” Unfortunately, that’s not found in the Bible. 1 John doesn’t have a verse that says, “by this will you know that you are saved, you’ll feel it.

We know we’re of God because we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. That’s first. In obedience, we love all those around us, particularly Christians, as we would love ourselves. Don’t misunderstand that last part. God isn’t slipping in a “You gotta learn to love yourself, child!” It means that we would provide for ourselves, seeking safety, food and shelter, so we should do the same to all those around us. Even our enemies.

But, if we seek the welfare of those around us, but do not love Jesus Christ, our love is self-centered and odious. If we sacrifice our lives in service for others, but we’re not loving God and abiding in Him, we’re like a banging gong.

All we need is love. God is love. So, really, all we need is God. And He has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ whom we should love above all others, obeying all He said.

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What is ‘Real Love?” Part 2

The Apostle Paul gives us benchmarks for what define true love in 1 Corinthians 13. As I noted in part 1, none of us can claim to show perfect love all the time. A big reason for this is that in our fallen natures we are rebels against God, who is love. The more we resemble the Lord, the more we will show true love (which is what Paul is getting at with the Corinthians).

The first characteristic was patience, or long-suffering. The next is kindness. We have to be careful with these because the Bible isn’t written so we can tell when everyone else is failing. It’s written to reveal our own hearts to ourselves so that we can repent and follow the Lord, reflecting His glory more perfectly.

Here’s what Matthew Henry says about this trait:

It is kindchrēsteuetai. It is benign, bountiful; it is courteous and obliging. The law of kindness is in her lips; her heart is large, and her hand open. She is ready to show favours and to do good. She seeks to be useful; and not only seizes on opportunities of doing good, but searches for them. This is her general character. She is patient under injuries, and apt and inclined to do all the good offices in her power. And under these two generals all the particulars of the character may be reduced.

Benign, bountiful, courteous and obliging. That paints a picture, but I like the part about seizing on opportunities to do good, searching for them, in fact.

Do we look for ways we can help those around us? Do we anticipate someone’s feelings or needs and then try to meet them to the best of our ability?

Or, are we mostly focused on what interests us and everyone else needs to get with that program?

Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10). Jesus tells of a man who was overcome by thieves and ravaged, left for dead. That’s you and me at various points in our lives. We are ravaged by the temptations of this world, we’re beaten by the desires of our flesh, we’re left alone to die. The Pharisees and the people who have human religion and are full of pride will walk by, pretending not to see us. We, will walk by, pretending not to see our neighbor, friend or spouse. That’s their issue, and they need to work it out!

But, the heart of love looks with compassion on the person who–some might say–got themselves into that mess. Love is kind and will look to do good for people.

This shows up in little things. We teach our kids that if they see a mess in the kitchen, don’t just walk by–help clean it up. Take out the trash, keep the bathrooms looking nice. But this is easier taught than put in practice. It’s not in the human nature (mostly) to look for something good to do that doesn’t impact our own immediate needs. After all, someone else made the mess, and why should it be me to clean it up?

Love is kind. It thinks of the good it can do, then does it at great cost. God could have scrapped the whole creation, sending us all to Hell. And it would have been just to do so. But since God is love, He made a way that we can be given freedom from the sentence of death that is justly ours. He did the most good, the most benign thing, the most compassionate thing, and actually took the penalty for our sin.

Shouldn’t we be able to show such kindness to those around us who may be equally as wicked as we were toward God? Perhaps we should imitate God more in our daily life and let the kindness of His love work through us.

What is the danger of the “Church System?”

The “church” creates the idea that if you don’t attend their services, you’re outside of the fellowship. That’s what they did to the Anabaptists. They accused them of forsaking the assembly. They accused them of heresy and blasphemy. All the while, they murdered them and exchanged actual criminals for a chance to catch and kill an Anabaptist.

These are the words of Christ in Matthew 23:1-15:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 

They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 

They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. 

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

This is the word of our Lord. To those who see, this is what happens in churches. Maybe not everywhere. There are home churches and other congregations that heed the word of the Lord. But it’s the exception.

God wants His people to be separate from the world. That’s you. That’s me. If we have ears to hear.