Saturday, September 15, 2007

# 218: What is Love?

Love is the only answer to all of the world’s problems. Love is the solution for the Christian church’s complacency. Love is the fulfillment of all good things, as God puts it in three little words: “I love you.” All true and lasting love originates from God since God says, "I am Love." And yet, we don’t see much of His love in the world. Why not? The main reason is that Godly type Agape love is contrary to the love our human nature produces. Another reason is because it isn’t easy to reciprocate God’s divine love to others as He requires. Still, that love is the main criteria for living in a way which pleases God. Without it we are living in a glorified, worldly self-centeredness.

Although we may not be aware of it, love for God and from God is the most valuable possession we could desire or possess. And if/when that love is not fulfilled, we turn to humans for love. That is where the problems start and never end. If it is love for a mate, a parent, a child, a friend or whatever other type of human love, it will not totally satisfy. We still have a silent but gnawing need to be loved with intimate desperation. There remains an emptiness within us that continually says, "Please love me; I need/want to be loved." What we are crying out for is wholehearted, mutual devotion with God. And when we become aware of and start to experience that form of love with God and for God, we, for the first time, feel complete, even if every person in the world hates us.

That type of love doesn’t come suddenly or without much cultivation. It comes from our continual devotion to God and all that He requires. God’s devotion for us is already there, just waiting to be received; and when received through faith, we will start to reciprocate that love.

God is not able to bless us with His love unless and until we get ourselves out of His way. Let me explain: Even if we desire to know His love, when we are concerned with only our spiritual needs and wants, along with our material wants (how am I going to make out?)—and many other things that have to do with our own personal lives—there is little room left for God to squeeze in even a bit of His love into our busy lives.

We can know with certainty we are equipped with God’s love when we are concerned with others’ needs: spiritual, material, etc. God desires to reach out to others through us. Jesus Christ can continue His work only through His people. We are his hands, feet and mouth. Repeating, when we start to get ourselves, with our many needs, out of God’s way, then He can start to give us His love. Then, armed with His love, we will be genuinely concerned about others. That is one sure way we will know we are experiencing that life-giving love.

Several reminders: 1) It is next to impossible to have God’s love and keep it to ourselves. 2) We activate God’s love when it is shared. 3) The more of God’s love we are experiencing, the less human love and attention we will need or desire. That is another way we can know God’s love is working through us; the only thing is that we must be honest with ourselves.

Scripture could rightly be called the book of love. And 1st Corinthians, Chapter 13, could without a doubt be, the chapter of love. Verses 2 and 3 clearly tell that no matter what heights we acquire/d in our Christian walk—whether it’s to speak in the language of angels, have the gift of prophecy, fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, have the faith to move mountains and surrender our bodies to the flames, etc.—without love for those in need, we are nothing.

In God’s plan of Salvation, repentance of our sins—which gives us a complete pardon and belief in Christ—starts the ball rolling, but it is an active love for God, coupled with God’s love for us, which keeps it going. Without genuine love, that priceless faith fades into the shadows of death. To be brutally honest, without an active love for God and our neighbors in need, we are no more than gonging disks (false brothers and sisters). It is hard to believe that when one vital component is missing, all other Godly virtues we thought we possessed are trash waiting to be burned in the sight of God.

This truthful fact presents a gigantic issue in Christianity. We can rightfully say that Christianity is a system of obedience based on faith/belief, but even more importantly it is a system of faith expressing itself through love. That says that faith without love isn’t worth a diddle. Galatians 5:6 confirms that principle: "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." Ouch!

Do you and I have that holy love which is required by Scripture? Let us live with Biblical love. Continuing with the love chapter, starting with verse 4: "Love is patient." Do we have patience when other Christians/people malign our dedication to Christ? Do we have patience when we don’t get what we want when we want it? Do we have patience when things just don’t go our way? Without painting honorable pictures of ourselves, are we patient in all circumstances? Personally, I can’t give myself a very high grade on patience.

"Love is kind." Webster’s definition of kind: “sympathetic, friendly, gentle, tenderhearted, generous, etc.” I get a fair grade on this virtue. How do you see yourself? We have to be honest; if we are not, we are cheating only ourselves. Remember, we are attempting to discern if we have the required Christian love.

"Love does not envy." Definition of envy: “a feeling of discontent and ill-will because of another’s advantage, possessions, etc.; resentful dislike of another who has something one desires." There isn’t much more one can say about envy. I truly believe every authentic Christian—which excludes those who just take that holy name—has no desire to envy anyone, since they desire others to be better than themselves in every way, material and spiritual. Yes, lack of envy is a sure sign of having love for others and for God. If I were the judge, I would give all mature Christians, meaning those who possess God’s Spirit, an “A+”. For myself, I also would get a high grade.

"Love does not boast, it is not proud." The main reason we boast or are proud is because we are attempting to make up for something lacking in our lives to prove we are as good as or better than others. Any person who has the life of Jesus Christ should be lacking nothing. Completeness is waiting for us in Christ. The only virtue we should desire is to be more like Jesus. Yes, we should boast in the Lord and of His greatness and love, but not to display an air of piety or pride, tacitly saying, "Ha-ha; I am better than you because I am a disciple of Christ."

I have an ungodly though silent pride in my physical health and youthful physique, but I have been doing my best to somehow destroy that feeling of pride and have made some gains. I am an older man and most old people are dilapidated in one way or another. Because of that pride, I give myself a lousy grade of “C-” or less. I am not pleased with the fact that I am proud. It is an extremely difficult attitude to conquer. But now that I have spoken up, it will be easier to get an upper hand on my secret pride. James 5:16. "Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man [woman] is powerful and effective." Let us exchange prayers; I will pray for you and you pray for me. My question is this: What am I lacking inwardly to need this pride? I should lack nothing, but evidently, I do lack something. I welcome comments and suggestions. Also, check your own life to see if you have pride, and then ask yourself, What am I lacking? This self- examination is only for people of God who desire and know the value of spiritual house-cleaning. The reason I say that is because pride is greatly valued, and rightfully so, by people who don’t belong to Christ. Find more info. in post # 187: "Anatomy of Pride & Humility."

"Love is not rude." We all know what it means to be rude. The question is, Why are some people rude?. It certainly is not a Godly trait. I am certain there are several reasons. I believe the main reason is that a rude person is not concerned with others’ feelings, and most likely is selfish. I don’t think there are many real Christians who are rude. Most of us get fairly high marks on rudeness.

"Love is not self-seeking." That is self-descriptive. I believe the majority of Christians get a failing grade when it comes to our “me-first” attitude. Although I am not aware of my own self-seeking attitude, I am certain I am guilty. I don’t think many of us, with a few exceptions, deserve any more than a “D-” if even that. The reason I give us a bad grade is because we are so used to catering to our own needs, or having others waiting on us, without thinking of those without. It could be that if we don’t change our ways concerning our self-seeking attitude, we may end up in a place we don’t expect.

"Love is not easily angered." I believe the key word is “‘easily.” What is the core reason we get angry? I believe there are legitimate reasons for getting angry when evil people do evil things to innocent people, and at the same time, not being easily angered at petty things. My anger comes out in this blog when people call themselves Christians and at the same time live ungodly lives. If you have a strong stomach, click on the first post # 145: "Just a Touch of Hell"—I accidentally have two # 145s—but basically, I am not an angry person. There are people—hopefully not Christians—who have an attitude of anger. How do you grade yourself when it comes to getting angry? I will be generous with my grade and give myself a “B.” There is a time to get angry.

"Love keeps no record of wrongs." This is where forgiveness can help; even forgive when there is no repentance on the part of the offender. If we don’t forgive with our heart, we are only hurting ourselves more than the offender. This is easier said than done. I don’t even know how to grade myself on this one. But, let’s continue to think about the harm we cause ourselves when we keep a record of wrongs.

"Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth." Is the Apostle Paul saying that anything not connected with God’s truth is evil? It sounds that way to me. I honestly believe Christians do not delight in evil. I am certain most American Christians get high grades on this one.

"It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." I ask this question: protects what or whom? Give me your answer. When it comes to “trusts, hopes, and perseveres,” I say yes, in God and Jesus Christ. My complete trust and hope are in God’s blessed plan of Salvation. And I pray I will persevere. Other than the protecting part, I give myself an “A.” I have no place else to turn to. I am lovingly stuck with Jesus Christ. Where is your hope and trust?

Galatians 5:22. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." These virtues are self-explanatory, and don’t need any commentary.

There are many more aspects of love not mentioned in this section. The greatest is: Do we really love God? We can easily tell if we truly love Him by asking ourselves this question: "Do we obey the teachings commanded in the New Testament?” Amen. To find out what a few of these commands are in Scripture, click on post # 170: "Crimes in Christ’s Name Exposed."

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