As I write this column, it is the next to last day of the shortest month of the year. But it sure seems like it has been a long one what with the inclement weather. It has been a month of many challenges for me, and for so many of you, I know it has as well. Life is full of them.
But, next week, we will be entering the Lenten season in preparation for Easter. It is a time of reflection, of repentance, and of renewal. I believe it is a time of healing and forgiveness and taking note of God’s great love for us. In light of that, in the next few weeks, beginning today, I will be taking a look at the topic of love.
There seems to be so little of it anymore in so many ways. People attack one another, people blame one another, people tear one another down, and it happens in all quarters nationally, in relationships, in business, everywhere. But that is not God’s way.
We also mis-define real love in our world as well. It is not about control or always agreeing with the other party. It is much more than that. Love is truly one of the most misunderstood things anywhere and yet is the simplest. And it is what we all need to know more about and it starts with the love of God.
So jump in with me over the next few weeks as I humbly, prayerfully, examine love and all it means and then we will wrap it up with Holy Week in a few weeks where we will see the fruition of what John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.“
In the 105 verses in 1 John, love is mentioned 40 times, more than that even. But in just seven words, the great apostle hit it on the head. “We love because He first loved us.” Love starts and stops with God. He is the author of love. He is love and He wants us to love one another. You see, we are most like God when we love one another.
Now, to be sure, most all of us are at least unloveable at times. And there are times you can love someone and tell them you do and they do not buy it. Yet, none of that is critical. Jesus had His love rejected often and was even maligned for it but the love never faded. Our love for God and each other should be the same. Let me give you an example: I just quoted John 3:16 earlier but though most people know that verse, they do not know this one 1 John 3:16 which says, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for others.” Notice John 3:16 and this verse are complementary and similar in what it is in 1 John 3:16. But the theme is the same. Love gives sacrificially. It is what the Greeks called AGAPE love. It is totally sacrificial and dedicated to the well-being of another.
It is not jealous and self seeking nor is it controlling. It is never about put downs or holding grudges. It is about joy and peace and kindness and patience and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self control. There are times we don’t exhibit those but the more our lives are yielded to God the more we will see these show up. That is not to say that if you are hurt or provoked or stressed, which is a great enemy to all of us in exhibiting those, we won’t fall flat at times. But in our faith, we need to pick it up and look to the Lord and yield more to Him to get us on track again.
The Greeks were aware of another type of love mentioned in the Bible too. It was called PHILEO love. Brotherly love.
Brotherly love is said by Paul in Romans 12:10 to “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, giving preference to one another.” Hebrews 13:1 says we are to let it always continue. It is the kind of love we so seldom see in our judgemental, uncivil world.
The third type of love the Greeks really hint on and is Biblical, is EROS, where the word erotic comes from and it refers to sensual or sexual love. And it is reserved in it full context for marriage and marriage alone.
Why did God make you and I? One answer is sufficient. He created us so that He could express His love to us and we could respond to Him with love. That is His nature and goodness. That is why we were made. And it is another reason that the murder of our unborn and the growing radical agenda of it is so insidious and wrong.
God shows us His love in so many ways. One is in His creation. The trees, the flowers, the stars above are all expressions of His love for us.
Secondly, God expresses His love by giving us the freedom of choice. He did not make robots. Unfortunately that leads to sin but He, in His love even had a remedy for that--Jesus.
Thirdly, God expresses His love for us by putting us in a family. I have had a wonderful mom, dad, extended family and in marriage we can have even more of a family. And yet, we are even in more of a family when we are Christians because God is our Father, Jesus is, as the Bible says, our Brother as we are joint heirs with Him and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter. And the Body of Christ, other believers are our brothers and sisters. It is another reason church is so important. To not go to church robs from that principle.
Fourthly, God shows His love for us by sending His Holy Spirit to dwell within us to guide us.
Fifthly, God shows His love for us and I will deal with this more in a week or two, by shaping our circumstances for our good and His glory. Romans 8:28 is true,”All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purposes.”
And finally, God shows His love to us in providing us the promise of Heaven. He promises us to be with us always. He will never leave us or forsake us. Hebrews 13:5 He is there when we lose a loved one. He is there when we lose a child or a job or a home. He is there when we receive a bad medical report or deal with financial woes. He is there when we are falsely maligned or cast down one way or another. He is there no matter what, no matter what. You do not always have to feel Him there, but He is there.
All of you need to know God always expresses His love to us. And because of that, we need to express our love to Him continually and to others. If the world, if we did that, instead of looking for negatives and looking for things that divide us and instead love as He loves us, imagine how different our world and lives would look. God’s love for us is perfect, perfect. We do not earn it or deserve it, it is a gift. He just cannot help loving us. There is nothing we can do to make Him quit loving us. It is unconditional. He won’t take it back. Rest in that.
Next week, love’s greater implications.