Thursday, April 17, 2014

What Is Love?

Love is the central component of a healthy relationship with God and with His children. We are commanded to love God and to love each other in the Bible more times than can be numbered. What is love, though? Is this merely a warm and fuzzy emotion of some sort? This is not true love spoken of in the Holy Scriptures. Let's examine the Bible's teachings on love.

Matthew 22:34-40 (Murdock's translation) says, "And when the Pharisees heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they assembled together; and one of them, who was expert in the law, to tempt him, inquired: Teacher, which is the great command in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might, and with all thy mind. This is the great and first command. And the second, which is like it, is, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commands hang the law and the prophets."

Jesus is quoting Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 6:4. In the Gospel of Luke 10:29-37, Jesus explains to us who our neighbor is by using the Parable of the Good Samaritan. "And he, being disposed to justify himself, said: And who is my neighbor? Jesus said to him: A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and robbers fell upon him, and plundered him, and smote him, and left him with little life in him, and went their way. And a certain priest went down by that way; and he saw him, and passed on. So also a Levite came, approached the spot, and saw him, and passed on. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where he was, and saw him, and took pity on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, and poured wine and oil on them, and placed him upon his ass, and brought him to the inn, and took care of him. And on the morning of the [next] day, he took out two denarii and gave to the host, and said: Take good care of him; and if thou expendest any more, when I return, I will repay thee. Which therefore of these three, appears to thee, to have been neighbor to him that fell into the hands of marauders? And he said: He that had pity on him. Jesus said to him: Go, and do thou also the like."

Jesus's point in this parable was clearly that every other person on this earth is our neighbor and that we should treat each other with respect and compassion at all times. In Matthew 7:12 tells us, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you;  so also do ye to them: for this is the law and the prophets."  Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commanded us to love not only our neighbors, but our enemies, and to do good to them (Matthew 5:43-48). Paul reiterates Jesus's point that love sums up the Law and the Prophets in Romans 13:8-10, "And owe nothing to any one; but to love one another. For he that loveth his neighbor, hath fulfilled the law. For this likewise, which it saith: Thou shalt not kill; nor commit adultery; nor steal; nor covet; and if there is any other commandment, it is completed in this sentence: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love doeth no evil to one's neighbor; because love is the fulfillment of the law."

Now on to the question that looms over this entire article: what is love? How do we know if we truly love God and love each other? In John 14:15, 21, 23, and 15:10 all tell us that if we love Jesus Christ, then we will keep His commandments. I John 5:2-3 says, "And by this we know, that we love the children of God, when we love God, and follow his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not burdensome."

So the love that we are to have for God and for each other is not an emotion, it is a lifestyle and action. If you truly love God, are you going to blaspheme Him or sin against Him in any way? If you love your brother and sister, are you going to murder them or sleep with their spouse? Are you going to wrong them or do anything to hurt them in any way? I Corinthians 13 gives us more signs of love that we can see in relationships.

"If I could speak in every tongue of men, and in that of angels, and there should be no love in me, I should be like brass that resoundeth, or the cymbal that maketh a noise. And if there should be in me [the gift of] prophecy, and I should understand all the mysteries, and every science; and if there should be in me all faith, so that I could move mountains, and love should not be in me, I should be nothing. And if I should feed out to the destitute all I possess; and if I should give my body to be burned; and there should be no love in me, I gain nothing. Love is long-suffering, and is kind; love is not envious; love is not boisterous; and is not inflated; and doth nothing that causeth shame; and seeketh not her own; is not passionate; and thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all, and endureth all. Love will never cease. But prophesyings will end; and tongues will be silent; and knowledge will vanish. For we know but partially; and we prophesy but partially. But when completeness shall come, then that which is partial will vanish away. When I was a child, I talked as a child, and I reasoned as a child, and I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I laid aside the things of childhood. And now we see, as by a mirror, in similitude; but then face to face: now I know partially; but then shall I know, just as I am known. For these three things are abiding, faith, and hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love."

Love is not only the greatest commandment, but it is the greatest gift that can possibly be given. Jesus Christ loves in the strongest way possible: He gave His life for us (John 15:13). He also never sinned against God or against His neighbors. If we follow Christ's example and His commandments with our whole heart by the leading of the Holy Spirit, we will truly walk in complete and honest love.

So many people in this day and age claim to love God and to love people but they show nothing to prove it. In a little twist of James's teaching on the relationship between faith and works, I will say this: show me your love without obedience and I will show you my love by obedience. Obedience is not true obedience if it does not come from a heart that desires to please God and glorify Him. Let's not be a people that profess to love each other and to love our heavenly Father, but let us be a people that shows our love by obeying God and doing good to one another. God bless!