Tuesday, 9 April 2013
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When you hear the word "love", what comes to mind? What types of actions do you categorize as loving? Why do you classify certain actions as "loving", while others you may deem to be spiteful, vengeful, or selfish? How do you know what love is? Is your concept of love based on what God calls love or is it your own idea? Since the world's definition of love is different from that of God, the people in the world (including those that were religious) did not understand Jesus (John 1:5, 10). Today most people (both religious and not) do not understand Jesus and therefore think that much of what is done by His followers-preaching repentance, judging evil deeds as sin, teaching others to live like Jesus, etc.-is "not being done in love." This paper will briefly examine the world's concept of love in contrast to God's view of love and how Jesus demonstrated the love of God to others.
Most people in the world have a view of love that differs considerably from what God calls love. The world's view is so prevalent that it has crept into the churches so that very few know what love is according to God. Most have allowed the world to define love for them and therefore have a perverted concept of how God loves and how we are supposed to love others. The reality that a "false love" has crept into the world and into many churches is not a new idea. In fact, Jesus predicted that it would happen: "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold" (Matthew 24:12). The Apostle Paul also affirms that people will have a false love: "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, ...lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (I Timothy 3:1-4).
So what is the world's view of love? The following summary of several dictionaries and thesauruses serves to accurately define what the world (and many churches) call love: A feeling of warm personal attachment, deep affection, devotion, tenderness, and strong liking toward a person who arouses delight or admiration. Notice that a person usually arouses or elicits love from others. It is common for a person to love others based on something that they have done or a quality they possess and which makes them desirable. The person who loves does so because there is something desirable or beneficial to be gained. If I love someone with worldly love, there is always a reason why I want to love. Ultimately, selfishness is at the center of all worldly love. Think about it. As an example, take dating relationships. Why do most dating relationships begin? Is it because two people want to display the love of Christ to each other? No, usually it is because one person notices something desirable (something that he/she wants) in the other person. Often, the quality is something as shallow as mere physical beauty. Sometimes that quality is money, status, or power. As another example, take friendships. Why are some people not accepted socially? There are always those who just do not have many, if any, friends. Why is this? It is because these people do not posses a quality that others find desirable or beneficial; therefore there is no reason for someone to love them-another example of selfishness. This agrees with the story of the good Samaritan that Jesus told in Luke 10:25-37. The man who was beaten and robbed possessed no desirable characteristics that made anyone want to love him and so both a priest and a Levite passed by the man without so much as calling for help. A Samaritan showed true compassion and love by helping him. There was a cost involved-at least monetarily (Luke 10:35), but also socially (Samaritans do not associate with Jews) and probably physically. It was no easy task to pick up a half-beaten, bloody man and take him to an inn. Jesus said that the story illustrated how we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27). This was not a worldly love, but God's love.
True love originates from God, not from self: "love comes from God" (I John 4:7). In fact, it is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). If you love with God's love, the people that you love may not have any characteristic that makes you want to love them. In prophesying about Christ Isaiah said that "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him" (Isaiah 53:2). Rather than loving people for your benefit, you choose to love them for their benefit and God's eternal benefit. Philippians 2:3-4 tells us to consider others better than ourselves. According to the Bible (I Corinthians 13:1-8), love can be defined as any act, attitude, or manner of living characterized by patience, kindness, humility, selflessness, forgiveness, and a hatred of evil. Motives or goals of love include bearing with others, trusting, hoping, and enduring; thus, it is not temporary.
We can better learn about God's view of love by looking at the way Jesus loved because he is our example and we should follow in his steps (I Peter 2:21). In many of Jesus' dealings with others, he does things that are surprising if you hold to the world's view of love. Some of Jesus' actions do not fit into the world's definition of love, but they are love from God's viewpoint-these are the actions that will be highlighted in this paper. If you saw someone doing similar deeds today, how would you react? Would you think that such a person could not be doing what is right because he/she is "not acting in love"? Let's examine some of Jesus' interactions with religious people, seekers, his relatives, friends, and his disciples to get a clearer picture of what love truly is. Jesus did many things out of love and this paper will focus on those things that are contrary to the world's ideas of love. Therefore many instances where he healed people as well as some other things he did that even worldly people recognize as love have been omitted. It would be impossible to mention every act of love that he did. As John writes, "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written" (John 21:25).
Jesus did not accept people merely because they were religious. Going to church, studying the Bible, and praying were not enough-he demanded wholehearted obedience and commitment to everything he said. Often, the religious people of Jesus' day were lacking in their devotion to God and Jesus sought to expose them. On one occasion in the temple, Jesus became angry with those who were selling things there. He made a whip and turned over tables attempting to clear everyone out of the temple who was buying and selling (John 2:15-17). Was this act love? Yes, Jesus was angry out of love for God and he did not rejoice in the evil (I Corinthians 13:6) that was being done. On another occasion Nicodemus, a religious teacher came to Jesus. He was not immediately accepted by Jesus even though he was a teacher of religion. He was told that he needed to change and be born again (John 3:3). John chapter 5 illustrates that often those who were religious-who were strict Sabbath keepers (5:16) and diligent Bible students (5:39)-received some of Jesus' harshest judgments. He said that they did not have God's word in them (5:38), that they could not believe because they accept praise from others (5:44), and that they did not even believe Moses (5:46-47), on whom their hopes were supposedly set (5:45). Once when many religious people were present, Jesus made a judgment about all that were standing there, saying, "not one of you keeps the law" (John 7:19). On another occasion, he told them, "You will die in your sins if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be" (John 8:24). Several times, Jesus picked at their "pet" doctrine of forbidding healing on the Sabbath and once had a man with dropsy stand up in front of everyone on the Sabbath to be healed (Luke 14:3-6). When Jesus was invited to the house of a prominent religious person, he rebuked his host and told him what type of people he should invite to his house (Luke 14:12)-the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. All of these acts may sound perhaps rude or overly harsh, but one must remember that Jesus loved with God's love and not necessarily with the world's love. His goal was that people would be totally committed to God and, ultimately, if the people followed his rebukes, they would be better off with God as well. The ways in which he interacted with the religious people of his day was for the eternal benefit of all involved.