Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Defining Love

What is love? It is a word thrown around a great deal in our culture. But it is hard to pin down. It can be seen as mainly some sort of powerful emotional experience. Which means that when it is there, it has a powerful effect. But when it wanes, we feel that love has vanished. This is most common in romantic love, but can be found in other types of love also. When we feel strongly, we act on it, and when the feeling fades, so does the love. And the feeling does generally tend to fade, especially if the situation that caused it changes or is forgotten. It can then be sometimes replaced by a vague benevolence that just lets people do whatever they want and would not dream of interfering. Perhaps on the hope they will grant us the same privilege. But is this the Christian idea of love?

From the Christian perspective the great example of love is God the Father giving His Son to save us (John 3:16-18; Romans 5:6-8; 1 John 4:9,10). This involved the Son, who was God, becoming a man (John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9-18) that He might pay the price for our sins (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He did this so that we who are sinners and had done nothing to deserve it (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9) could be reconciled to God through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9). Love therefore is being willing to sacrifice yourself for the good of others who have done nothing to deserve this. 

But even this is not the total answer.  The good of others can be, and frequently is, defined as what they want, what gives them pleasure. But the Scriptures state there is a good for human beings that goes beyond what makes us feel good. We are made in God’s image (Genesis  1:26,27; 9:6; James 3:9,) and He has a purpose to carry out in our lives (Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:28-30). This means that doing good to others may involve, not just giving people what they want, but what God says they need (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Galatians 6:9,10; Titus 2:11-14). But nonetheless, striving to do it in such a way as to genuinely help them change (2 Timothy 2:24-26; Galatians 6:1; Colossians 4:6). But we must avoid doing things to build ourselves up and make ourselves look better and be genuinely concerned for the needs of others (1 Corinthians 13:1-3; Matthew 23:6,7; Galatians 1:10). For real love is not a fleeting emotion, but the deliberate decision to follow the example of the One who saved us.

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