Friday, October 19, 2012

LOVE DEFINED - Part One

Christ taught that the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength…and to love our neighbor as our self.  Seems simple enough, right?  But when we unpack these commandments of God, we find a treasure trove of meaning that compels us to properly define the word LOVE

Mark 12:28-31 - One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, "What commandment is the foremost of all?" Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.'  "The second is this, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

The word for love here, agape (agapao) is used in the New Testament to describe the attitude of God toward His Son, John 17:26; the human race, generally, John 3:16 and Romans 5:8 and to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, John 14:21; and to convey His will to His children concerning their attitude toward one another, John 13:34, and toward all men, 1 Thessalonians 3:12; and to express the essential nature of God, 1 John 4:8.

Biblical Christian love has God for its primary object, and expresses itself first of all in obedience to His commandments. 1 John 5:2-3 tells us “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”  A self-centered life is the negation of love to God.  Christian love, exercised toward our neighbor (mankind), is not an impulse from our feelings, it does not always agree with our natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom we have some affinity.  Love seeks the welfare of all, Romans 15:2, and does no wrong to any, Romans 13:10; love seeks opportunity to promote the highest good for God’s Kingdom and to all men, and especially toward the fellow believers, Galatians 6:10.

Love can be experienced only from the actions it prompts. God's love is seen in the gift of His Son, 1 John 4:9-10. This is not the love of affection, that is, this love was not drawn out by any excellence in its objects.  In Romans 5:8 we see that God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  This was an exercise of God’s divine will in deliberate choice, and consistent with the very nature of God Himself.

Love was demonstrated perfectly among men in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 5:2 indicates that we are to walk in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. This love is the fruit of His Spirit in the Christian, Galatians 5:22.  Part two of this topic (in my next post) will deal with “loving-severity” (i.e. love involves the difficult and, often, unpleasant aspects of discipline, correction and even judgment as He and we attempt to employ wisdom in discerning where on the scale of kindness and severity (Romans 11:22) we must properly operate). This lays the foundation for understanding some of the Divine actions we “normally” have difficulty reconciling with love and, therefore, are inclined to dismiss.  Written by Keith A. Dunlap

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