Some Reflections on "Love"

One of the most difficult challenges to becoming a more biblical church in my opinion is dealing with misconceptions concerning the concept of "love."  The world has done a masterful job superimposing their ideas on what love is onto the church by grabbing one or two Scriptures that seemingly fit their point, and hurling them at Christians. 

Believers striving for a biblical worldview and concept of love are often told they are judgmental, or that "Jesus is about love not condemnation," or the common refrain: "See, this is why I don't go to church...God is about love and ya'll don't show that."

Desiring to "love our neighbors" as ourselves is a command of Christ no doubt; but He also said to "love the Lord our God, with all our hearts, souls, and minds" (Matt 22:37-39).  And therein lies the difficulty I think.  For the unbeliever or for the believer trapped in consistent sin, the concept of love starts with them...what they are going through, how they feel, and what they "think" should happen towards them.  But biblical love must first start with God!  At this point one often hears, "Love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8).  But a quick check of the context gives us some insight on what true, biblical love is...

"Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.  For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.  With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.  For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.  Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins." (1Pe 4:1-8 ESV)

Far from ignoring sin, excusing sin, or tolerating sin, biblical love simply forgives sin based on honest repentance (because that's what God does for us) while at the same time, preaching against it to those caught in it (because that's what God commands!).  Peter (and James as well...James 5:19-20) makes this point clearly.

In our quest to be loving, if we choose not to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15), we are abandoning a culture suffocating in sin to the very thing that will separate them from God.  That's not love!!!

True, biblical love finds it's center in Jesus: His heart, His Word, and His commands.  Biblical love first loves God, and from that place finds the right way to love others.  True biblical love doesn't overlook sin; it hates it.  True love abhors that which destroys another person made in the image of God.  "It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth" (1 Cor 13:6).  So like Jesus, biblical love heals but takes a stand against what is false; it delivers the hurting but will also take a whip to ongoing wrongdoing; it gently restores the repentant person but warns the idolater; it is very bold but very humble.  The Apostle John records some words from our Lord that reflect the dual nature of divine love:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."  (Joh 3:16-21 ESV)

That's love people.  Eternal life for those who believe; damnation for those who don't.  Yes it breaks God's heart, but that is the nature of love.  Many you love will not always love you in return.  So biblical love is both tender and fierce; patient AND passionate concerning righteousness.  It cuts when cutting is needed, and mends when mending is called for.  It does this through following the commands laid out in the Word of more, no less.

People who truly love God and others rejoice when someone is saved and weep when wickedness is celebrated.  True love simply wants what God wants.  And truly..."what the world needs now, is love sweet love."  But not the kind conjured up by man; it needs the sort given by God through His Spirit and Word.