|Vol. 2, No. 1||Page 20||January 2000|
The “Love” of God
By Wellington H. Smith, Jr.
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39).
Unfortunately, in our language, the word “love” is used to mean many things. We love everything. We love our pets. We love our favorite foods. We love our days off. We love our families and our cars. We mean we like them very much or they give us a good feeling. Sometimes we really mean we love them. Sometimes we even mean we really “worship” them and they control much of our lives. God states that the accomplishment of pleasing him is found in obedience (John 14:15) and that correct obedience of all of his commandments is contained in these two. In both, the commandment is “to love.”
In the original language of the Bible, God used several words to cover our different uses of the word “love.” The Greek word used in the passages containing the commandments we are to follow is “agapao.” This is a very interesting and specific word which, when understood, leaves little doubt about what God wants and expects from his people, if they are to please him. To understand exactly and completely what this word means, it is best to go to other places in God’s Word where it is used. The Bible is it’s own best interpreter if we will study.
The “love” we are to have toward God, each other and even strangers (our neighbour in the parable of the Good Samaritan) is the same “love” God had for all humanity and each of us individually when he sent Jesus to become the perfect sacrifice so we might have a way back to a right relationship with God. God wants us to put him first, others next and let him take care of us.
God does not leave us wondering how this directive “to love” is to be exhibited in the Christian’s life. In 1 Corinthians 13, he gives us clear instruction on what the “love” he requires does and does not. Even a cursory study of this passage will teach us much of what is expected of a Christian. Thinking about each statement and asking ourselves a few questions will help us understand where we are in relation to where God wants us to be.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (ASV), “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. And if I have [the gift of] prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And if I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing.”
Verse 4, “Love suffereth long.” God knows we will have many trials. He even says they make us strong. He promises the trials will not be more than we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). How are we when suffering comes along? “[and] is kind;” not just when things are good and going the way we think they should. God says Christians will be kind in all things, in good times and those not so good times. Are we always kind in all of our dealings with others? “love envieth not;” God knows there are rich and poor, the sick and the healthy. He wants us to learn to be content with what we have (or have not) and focus on His work and our spiritual life instead of this worldly life. This is hard for most of us because the world presses in on us from all sides. Our families and “things” are very real to us while spiritual things are sometimes elusive. How do we feel about what we have or have not? “love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,” one translation reads “is not a braggart.” God wants us to focus on others and not ourselves. If we are talented and do well, we should know that it was a gift from God to be used for Him and others. Without him, we would be nothing (Matthew 25:15-28). How do we see and use our talents?
Verse 5, “doth not behave itself unseemly,” God said that by the way we are seen by others, he will be glorified. If we are to teach others about God and Christ, we must be sure that the “sermon” we are living does not negate the lesson we are teaching. It is a truth that we are the only Jesus some people will ever see. This means everywhere, all the time. When we let it be known that we are Christians, the world will watch to see what we really mean. We teach very negative lessons about Christianity when we teach one way and live another. This may be why we lose so many of our children to the world. Do we live our lives so that it is a sermon to all who know us, even our families and children? “seeketh not its own,” once again, we see it stated that we are to concern ourselves with serving God and others and let God take care of us. In other scriptures God plainly teaches we are to work and provide for ourselves and our families as well as others, but we are to be focused on the things of God. Where is our focus? “is not provoked,” Ephesians 4:26 tells us “Be ye angry and sin not.” For most of us, this may be one of the hardest passages. We want life to be “fair” and it is not. We want “our turn” in this life and many of us will not get it. We are told at every turn that we have “rights” but God tells us to give up our rights in favor of the rights of others. One example is Matthew 5:41. In our crowded lives it is an accomplishment to not “be provoked.” How do we handle life when we are tempted to become “provoked”?
Verse 6, “taketh not account of evil; rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth.” It is a hard thing to not take the opportunity to “get even” when it presents itself. It is even harder to not take some satisfaction in seeing someone who has wronged us “get what is coming to them.” God tells us to pray for them and let him take care of the “getting even.” He promises to do so (Hebrews 10:30-31). Do we let God take care of our “getting even”?
Verse 7, “beareth all things,” keeping on keeping on is what God demands of Christians. Trusting him not to give us more than we can handle. Do we keep on keeping on, always? “believeth all things,” God calls Christians to believe everything he says, even when we do not understand. In this day and age, Christians are being ridiculed for believing in an all powerful God who created everything in six days. A God who takes care of his people daily. A God whom we are called on to follow completely at all times. We are called naive, old fashioned, uneducated, simple minded and even stupid. It may not be long before we are persecuted for our beliefs. Do you believe all of God’s Word? How far will you follow him? You may be willing to die for him but are you willing to live for him, no matter what comes your way?
“hopeth all things,” faith gives hope for our future on earth and our eternal home. Without hope, there is nothing. The lack of hope is probably the most dangerous thing for our society. When a person loses hope, there is no reason to do good and no reason not to do harm. How firm is our Hope? “endureth all things.” This seems to be the third time God calls us to endurance. This, along with “long suffering” and “beareth all things” should let us know that God knows how hard life can be and wants us to be encouraged as well as instructed. Other passages also let us know that God expects the Christian to endure until the end (Revelation 2:10). Are you willing to endure all things?
Verse 8, “Love never faileth.” I think this is the hardest part of love for us to accomplish. Perfect love never fails. God wants us to know he never fails. He wants us to be like him in this as much as is humanly possible. He wants Christians to be Christians all the time in all of the situations of our lives. Good times or bad, strong times or weak, young or old, healthy or sick, when others love us and in times when it seems we are the only one. God wants Christians to show his strength to a lost world so that through us, they might see him and be saved. How do we measure up?
“but whether [there be] prophecies, they shall be done away; whether [there be] tongues, they shall cease; whether [there be] knowledge, it shall be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known. But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:8-13).
Once again, now that God has taught us what he means by
“love” God reminds us that to him, love is the most important and lasting
thing. Love will last throughout eternity. Do we have and show Godly