17 The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”
~ Zep 3:17 (NIV)
What is wrong with humanity? Is it just a problem of not knowing the way? Adam and Eve knew the way. Cain knew the way. Ancient Israel knew the way. Yet, they disobeyed. Perhaps their knowledge wasn’t perfect, but did they really not know enough? What of Lucifer? Was his problem a lack of knowledge?
We need to remember that humanity has a heart problem.
9The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
~ Jer 17:9
I once asked, “Does God laugh? Or, is He a Being with no sense of humor?” Buddhism teaches that “God”, as such, is not a personal god but rather an impersonal force (and all “gods” are pretenders). However, there are many verses that indicate that the God of the Bible has emotions like how we do. What’s more, He delights in His creation and particularly His children, and He expects humanity to respond in kind.
9 Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, 10 if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
~ Dt 30:9-10 (NIV)
We are not to just respond with our heart. Far too many of the world’s churches want to respond without the head or the body. We are not to just respond with our body and our lives, either. We are to respond with 100% of everything.
4Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:
5And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
~ Dt 6:4-6
Does v 5 leave anything out? You know, God only wants one thing from us: everything.
Notice, though, that His commandments are supposed to be in our heart. Head knowledge is not enough!
If love is devoid of emotion, then how else does the exchange between Peter and Jesus after His resurrection make sense?
15So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest [agapao] thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love [phileo] thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
16He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest [agapao] thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love [phileo] thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
17He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest [phileo] thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love [phileo] thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
~ Jn 21:15-17
The Gospel of John was written by “that disciple whom Jesus loved” (v 7). “Loved” is agapao, which includes among other definitions “to be fond of, to love dearly … to be well pleased” (Strong’s G25). The above passage contrasts agape, a selfless love, with philia, brotherly love. So, question: Does brotherly love involve any emotions?
Herbert W Armstrong used to define love as “outgoing concern for others”. It’s not bad as definitions go, but it seems a little distant, a little clinical. However, “concern” is an emotion nonetheless, is it not? Can we really have “concern” about someone, which must involve the heart, if love does not have an emotional element?
I don’t like it when we avoid one ditch by driving into another. We in the COG movement have a tendency to stress commandment keeping so much that we overlook that keeping the commandments flows from love, not the other way around. The Pharisees kept a lot of nit-picky rules, but Christ criticized them for being devoid of love. Why? Their laws and rules did not flow from love, while God’s perfect Law (which they violated) does. The Pharisees did not have outgoing concern for others, let alone do anything about it.
Keeping the commandments is similar to works, while love is similar to faith. Can you be saved without works? Faith without works is dead, so therefore it follows to reason that those who attempt to have faith without works will also be dead. Well, love without keeping the commandments is also dead. God’s commandments are the expression of His divine character, not the source of His love. John wrote that “God is love” (1Jn 4:8). His commandments, then, flow from His divine love!
Yet, just like works cannot replace faith, neither can keeping the commandments replace love. Just ask the Pharisees.
The vast majority of the Bible stresses the commandments because they are the expression of love. It is a selfless love. Love is the opposite of selfishness. It is so outwardly focused that the translators of the KJV decided to substitute the word “charity”. Charity is something that is given away. It is something for which we do not expect any return.
Think about what Christ expected in return when He came and died for our sins. Well? Have you figured out what it was? If your list is empty, then you are on the right track.
32 If you love [care for, have affection for, have outgoing concern for] those who love [care for, have affection for, have outgoing concern for] you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love [care for, have affection for, have outgoing concern for] those who love [care for, have affection for, have outgoing concern for] them. 33 If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. 35 But love [care for, have affection for, have outgoing concern for] your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil.
~ Lk 6:32-35 (NIV)
What the above tells us is that even sinners can have a sort of agape love towards others! This is where some in the Church get it wrong! A mother’s love for her child is so great that she would lay down her life for her baby.
13Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
~ Jn 15:13
A mother has agape for her child (under normal circumstances). Of course, nothing a human being does is perfect, but God’s love is perfect. Jesus proved His love by giving His life even for people who had not yet been born! No one can outdo God!
However, few of us in this age are asked to give up our lives for others. Are we willing to give up anything falling short of it, though? What does love look like, anyhow?
1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
~ 1 Co 13:1-3
Without love, no other gift of God will ever matter. Without love, giving away everything, even our lives, will amount to nothing.
Ever consider why?
“God is love.” Do you get it yet? God cannot tolerate sin, and lacking in love is a sin!
7Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
20If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
~ 1Jn 4:7-8, 20
Think about what it means to love someone. You wish to be around them, talk with them and spend time with them. At even its lowest level, that is love! Godly love is so much more, though. It is putting the other first, thinking about their wishes and desires and being willing to lift them up when they are down. It is the willingness to sacrifice time and effort to help them out because you care so much for them.
Love is sacrificial.
1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
~ Ro 12:1
“Reasonable service”? Yes, if you truly love God above all and before all, then it is reasonable to express that love in a sacrificial manner. In fact, when you consider what Christ risked and did for us, how can it be anything but “reasonable”?
4Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
~ 1Co 13:4-8
True love never fails. True love is commitment. Commitment means hanging onto the relationship and not letting go.
True love will keep on giving. What of the above list looks like the world’s version of love? None! Love is by definition selfless and giving. Instead of “’til death do us part”, the world views love as “’til you no longer satisfy my needs”. The world loves in order to get something back. That’s not God’s view of love. That’s why “charity” was chosen by the KJV translators, as it means giving away without any thought of a return.
We often hear, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” However, Paul raises the bar even higher for brethren, doesn’t he?
3 Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.
~ Php 2:3 (HCSB)
It is important to understand what love is because Paul tells us that love is greater than even faith!
13 Now these three remain:
faith, hope, and love.
But the greatest of these is love.
~ 1Co 13:13 (HCSB)
Jesus came to instruct us, show us the way, through repentance and change our hearts. Even the act of repentance must be heart-felt in order to be valid. God wants our minds and bodies, but He particularly wants our hearts.
10 But this is the covenant
that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put My laws into their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be My people.
~ Heb 8:10 (HCSB)
When you put it all together, I think the real definition of love should be: Selfless outgoing care and concern for others. This solves a few problems:
1. First and foremost, it emphasizes the emotional aspect that so many mini-Nazis in the COG world want to distort into nothing (after all, if you care for someone, you might do something against their rules).
2. It emphasizes action because “concern” in and by itself is not sufficient, but “care” implies doing something for someone.
3. It emphasizes the lack of self, which means no return is required.