What is Love?

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”  Jesus answered, The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  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.

Mark 12:28-31 (ESV)

Love Is:
4a:  unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as
          (1):  the fatherly concern of God for humankind
          (2):  brotherly concern for others
     4b:  a person’s adoration of God

Definition of from Merriam Webster

So what does it mean to love God? Does it mean being at the church every time the doors are open? Does it mean accosting everyone you come across with the Four Spiritual Laws? Does it mean dressing weird? Does it mean putting tons of bumper stickers on the back of your car? Of course not.

  • To love God is to first of all believe that He exists.
  • To love God is to admire His character.
  • To love God is to love what He loves and hate what He hates.
  • To love God is to follow His decrees and commands.
  • To love God is to pattern your life after Him.

And what does it mean to love your neighbor? Does it mean agree with or condone everything he does? Does it mean to roll over and do everything he wants you to? Does it mean offer him platitudes when he is poor, or in trouble, or depressed? Of course not.

  • To love your neighbor is to treat him like you want to be treated.
  • To love your neighbor is to seek his best interests.
  • To love your neighbor is to not seek revenge.
  • To love your neighbor is to open your heart, home, and wallet to his needs.
  • To love your neighbor is to be happy for him when he wins, and mourn with him when he loses.


Or as a much greater writer put it:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (ESV)

Reformation or Resurrection?

Religion is about reformation. Reform the world. Reform your actions. Reform your appearance.

Easter is about resurrection. The dead coming back to life. Jesus doesn’t want to help us reform our old life. He wants to kill it. Then give us new life instead.

The old life is marked and marred by a constant struggle by our Self to have its own way and do its own will. The old life is permeated by moral failure. We try, but we can’t even live up to our own meager standards, much less God’s. Sometimes that failure (which God calls sin) is a conscious choice. Often it is an ingrained habit. It may have even become an addiction. The result is damage to ourselves , pain to others, and separation from our God.

The good news of Easter is that through the Crucifixion Jesus has broken the stranglehold Sin has over us, and through the Resurrection He has demonstrated His power over death. His offer to us is one of hope. Not a cheap, simple, self-help hope. Not a reformation project, but a complete tear-down and rebuilding project. He offers us death and resurrection. By allowing Him to kill our old self, He is then able to create a new life in us that has the ability to say no to sin (moral failure) and is able to follow Him in doing good .

This offer is given to every person, but each one of us has to personally accept it. We must recognize our failures, and earnestly desire to be rid of them. We must accept his forgiveness for our sin. We must acknowledge that he has the right to direct our life.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)

Acceptance and Love

This will be a difficult post to write. Not because of any earth shattering thing. Not because I failed miserably, but because it will be hard to not sound like I’m patting myself on the back.

The other day a very dear person to me confided and confessed a sin that will have long term effects in his life and mine. Now because of our relationship, I have the authority to speak into his life. At that moment I had a choice. I could condemn his actions and heap shame on him, blame him for acting foolishly, or reproach him for bad decisions. OR, I could model God’s love to him. I could empathize with him in the pain. I could help him to formulate a plan to move forward. I could let him know that no matter what he has done, he is always welcomed and loved here.

Our model in all things is Christ. What would he have done? To the Samaritan woman at the well, He brought her to the knowledge of sin then offered her the hope of relief. To the woman caught in adultery He defended her from the mob who wanted to punish her then offered her forgiveness. To the rich young ruler, He invited him to lay aside everything else and follow Him. To Nicodemus, He offered a new start and a new life.

I’m happy to say that God won the day. We were able to calmly and lovingly work through the issues surrounding his sin and what might happen. I believe he felt loved and accepted. That has not always been the case. Many times in my life (even most) I have been hard and unforgiving. I believed the way to keep someone accountable was to clearly lay down the law and rigidly hold to the consequences of violating that law. But what did that get me? A wife who was afraid to speak freely around me, kids who hid from me, friends who didn’t include me in their plans.

What has made the difference in me? Forgiveness. Truly understanding that I am not the shining example I thought myself to be. Realizing that I am a terribly flawed man. Accepting God’s forgiveness for my sin and welcoming His correction in my life. While I am not the man I want to be, thank God, I am not the man I once was.