What is Love?
Man with his worldly heart is unable to fully comprehend the real value and meaning of God’s love and in such state God’s Son is rejected and meanings attributed to His sacrificial love.

What is Love?

     In this age when love is being defined in different terms, even love of God is also weighed in the scale of quid pro quo of God desiring worship for love. But we tend to forget that even in our incomplete and broken down existence, God calls out to us to bless us and this love of His is unchanged for different communities steeped in sin. God equally loves the broken hearted people for His Son did not come for a particular race but for all of humanity to redeem them from the clutches of sin. But in today’s world that seeks immediate results, even spirituality and redemption is also like an on call facility.

       What is love? -The great theologian C.S.Lewis in his book ‘The Four Loves’ distinguishes between different types of love; eros, a type of romantic or passionate love, like between a husband and his wife; philos is where two people are linked to each other in friendship with a common vision and a common goal and they delight in to achieve the commongoal, much like a charitable trust members. Then is storge love about familiarity with people who relate in familiar ways and are bonded by chance, as between church members; and finally is agape or divine love, that is identified by sacrifice for the good of another and this is godly love.

        Jonathan Edwards divides love into two categories. First is love of complacency and this could be for the inherent qualities of the object of love. It could be for a food item, a place, an individual and many other things. The second is love of benevolence and it is not based on the loveliness of the object but rather the good will of the one who loves. The aim in this kind of love is to reach out to bring about something beautiful in the other person and is not necessarily a response to the inherent beauty of the one being loved. God revealed what He would be doing years later through His Son, when ‘All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, everyone, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the inequity of us all’ (Isaiah 53:6).

       After denying his Lord and Savior three times Apostle Peter, on being told by Apostle John, jumped into the sea to reach the Lord first on the seashore and all of them were first given bread and fish to eat by the Lord. And then Lord Jesus addressed Apostle Peter as ‘Simon, son of Jonah’ and not as Cephas or Petros to ask him first ‘do you love me more than these’ using the Greek word ‘agape’ for love. Apostle Peter confirmed his ‘philos’ love for the Lord twice to be asked by the Lord again the third time to confirm his ‘philos’ love for His Lord to be then entrusted with the responsibility of feeding His sheep. The Savior Lord not only assured Apostle Peter about restoration of their relationship but also showed His expectation of ‘agape’ love from him but accepted Peter’s ‘philos’ love for Him knowing fully that Apostle Peter with the others would ‘shake the earth’ in preaching the Gospel. Apostle Paul tells us of this same ‘agape’ love of God, ‘God demonstrates His own love (agape) toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). God did not wait for us to change and become worthy of His love which could never have happened.

          Can love of God be measured on a scale? – God’s love is the love of benevolence and Pastor John Piper lists out four criteria with which the greatness of this love is measured in the Bible. First, is the degree to which the person loved does not deserve to be loved. We do not deserve His love and yet He loves us. Apostle Paul describes this, that ‘While we were still weak, at the right time Christ dies for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person’. But God shows His love for us, ‘in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:6-8). King Solomon also said a similar thing, ‘For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin’ (Ecclesiastes 7:20). God’s love is so great that despite knowing everything He still called out to Adam in the Garden of Eden.

           Second, the greatness of the price paid to love a person – God’s love is such that He willingly paid the highest price to express that love. Lord Jesus reveals His agape love for us, ‘Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends’ (John 15:13). God’s love is poured out on us even when we don’t deserve it but He is willing to pay the highest price to express that love through the sacrifice of His Son.

           Third, the greatness of the good that is done for the person when he is loved – God’s love expressed through His Son gives us eternal life by redeeming us from the clutches of sin and Satan (John 3:16). Lord Jesus defined this eternal life, to know God and to know His Son (John 17:3). Thus the greatest gift that we receive is God Himself and this is further fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when His Spirit is poured out on the believers ‘to teach you everything and to remind you all things’ that Lord Jesus taught (John 14:26).

          Fourth, the level of desire that God has for the good of the one loved – Did someone or something force God to show His love or does He with all His heart? God declares, ‘Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul’ (Jeremiah 32:41). The parable of the Prodigal son illustrates the same, for when the errant son returns home, his father goes running to hug and kiss him, to put a ring on him, restoring his lost rights, to put on him new robes and shoes and also celebrate his return home (Luke 15:20-24).

          The most beautiful love in this world is this Divine love that pays the highest price, the life of His own Son, for completely undeserving enemies, to give us the longest and greatest happiness of becoming part of His family and being in His presence. And He delights in doing this! Goal of God’s love is benevolence towards unworthy people but the goal of our life is complacency in God. God desires us to rejoice in Him and He gets ultimate satisfaction when we get ultimate satisfaction in Him. We do not love God to help Him find joy but He does this to us. Our love for God and His love for us is for us to find and pursue satisfaction in God through His worship and exaltation.

          Why do we fail to fully understand this love? – In our sinfulness we are self centered and not God centered and we run in circles to find satisfaction without realizing that our full and lasting satisfaction is in God alone. The devil, through his lies, leads us into love of what is visible and like Eve we want what is ‘tasty, pleasant to the eyes and desirable’. God’s command is to ‘Shema’ or listen, and not look to see Him like Moses wanted to see His Divine glory, and then find your joy in His Word. In our quest to see God then we start creating God in images that we have perceived. But despite our behavior towards Him, God is merciful to lead us into that enjoyment in Him for He has created us in His image and likeness.

        Apostle Paul reveals a believer’s identity and role as ‘elect of God, holy and beloved’. God chooses us and justifies us by forgiving our sins to make us holy and in His love leads us into His glory under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the process of daily sanctification (Colossians 3:12-14). Greek word ‘egapemenoi’ translated as beloved actually means God’s love being manifested through our lives or Christ living His life through the believer. Thus blessed, we are required to put on ‘a heart of compassion like our Savior did, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience’. We are to, as per Greek word ‘enduo’, sink into these traits completely like a cloth covering us all over till this becomes our very nature. The Apostle further commands us to bear up with one another and then go beyond just forgiving the other but holding them up to strengthen and encourage them just as Lord Jesus does. And finally, ‘Beyond all these things, put on love which is the perfect bond of unity’, and thus forming a close attachment like the ligaments holding up and strengthening bone joints. God’s love must be manifested in us in such a manner that our very life reflects that love to others. In verse 15 we are to do all this in obedience to the word of God while being thankful to God to ensure the rule of God’s peace in our heart, so that nothing can then shake our faith. No storms, no darkness and no lack or abundance can then deter us from seeking God’s kingdom.   

           Lord Jesus answered a lawyer among the Pharisees about the greatest commandment in the law that first is to love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul and mind and the second to love your neighbor as yourself for these fulfill the law and the teachings of God given through the prophets. God is love and we are to love Him but loving the neighbor is also like loving God for one command is unfulfilled without the other. Apostle Paul teaches us the same thing, ‘Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law’ (Romans 13:8). There is no differentiation by God and ‘In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything but faith working through love’ (Galatians 5:6). Faith working through love is what our Savior Lord’s brother emphasized, that  ‘Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself’ (James 2:17).

       Love is actually the identity and badge of Christianity. The Savior Lord said, ‘By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another’ (John 13:35). This resulted in definite action in the body of Christ, His church, that ‘They began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing with all, as anyone might have need’ (Acts 2:45). Today this is manifested worldwide by Christian NGO’s who are always in the forefront to help the afflicted and EFICOR is helping the riot affected people in Delhi without much ado.

         Apostle Paul defines the aim of all his teaching and the essence of God’s Word that ‘The purpose of our instruction is love (agape) from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith’ (1 Timothy 1:5). Love from a pure heart that does not demand but only gives, from sincere faith, for without faith love cannot be there. The aim of life would thus become to rejoice in God’s love, rejoice in it, put it on and rather sink deep into it to let is overwhelm you and then pouring out that same love onto others through thought, word and deed to bring glory to God, the very source of that love. Knowledge of God is the beginning of love but love of God in our hearts must be due to His love for us and not that we love Him out of fear. Filled with that love, then, whatever we do we would do as an outpouring of that love for others.

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