Wednesday, November 21, 2012
LOVE DEFINED – Part Two
Our culture defines love erroneously. We generally think of it in terms of an emotion or simply an act of kindness. While love might involve one or the other (or both), both fall short of the biblical definition. While Scripture clearly states that God is love, the apostle Paul also states in Romans 11:22, "Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off." Love is the purpose and pursuit of the highest possible good, all things considered. It requires wisdom to discern what measure of kindness or severity is appropriate to arrive at the highest possible good. We can see, therefore, that love might involve acts of kindness but it also might involve various expressions of severity, both of which could produce a wide range of emotions.
The context of Romans 11 involves cutting off those who do not have faith (Jew or Gentile) and embracing those who do have faith (Jew or Gentile). Both cutting off and embracing are acts of love and both will produce considerably different emotions.
It is critical to involve both kindness and severity in our concepts of love, lest we simply dismiss the actions of God revealed in the Bible that we commonly have difficulty reconciling...with a more shallow view of love. The Old Testament Scriptures reveal that God implemented extreme measures in His effort to pursue the highest possible good. We must not simply dismiss such revelation. God has revealed to us incredible insights into His nature and character, including his love. We must allow such revelation to define our idea of love, not dismiss passages that do not fit our presuppositions about love. In the same way that we talk about the loving kindness of God, we must be aware of the loving severity of God. Love involves doing what is appropriate, no matter how difficult, to arrive at the highest possible good.
It is common for people to struggle with the severe acts of God as revealed in the Old Testament because of a deficient concept of love. In the same way that a surgeon might have to amputate a cancerous leg in order to save the rest of the body, God has, on occasion, cut off those who were cancerous (i.e. wicked). The greatest act of love ever expressed is in the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the atonement, we see the greatest manifestation of kindness and severity imaginable.