Short-Changing Love

Christians have sometimes been accused of being unloving. The accusation may be true in many instances — we can behave in such a way that we have a form of godliness but deny its power (2 Tim. 3:5). But often the “unloving” label has more to do with the way our world has redefined the word, “love.” For many, possibly a majority, in our society “love” is loosely understood as freedom from constraint and universal acceptance of every sin and lifestyle. This definition short-changes the beauty and magnificence of God’s love, and it keeps human beings from becoming authentic individuals. Moral standards rooted in the perfect character of God are the only basis for fulfillment in this life. He Himself IS love (1 John 4:8). Consider the following:

Love demands obedience — “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Jesus knows more about love than anyone who ever lived, and yet He consistently linked a love for God and man with the commandments of God (cf. Matt. 22:37-40). In fact, Scripture teaches that the whole law is fulfilled when one truly understands the nature and application of love (Rom. 13:10). Recently some have tried to argue that love frees a Christian from the constraints of God’s law, but the question must be posed: “free to do what?” On the contrary, Scripture teaches that the more we love God and our fellow man, the more we will earnestly seek the commandments of our Master. Paul said, “the love of Christ compels us…” (2 Cor. 5:14). Real love, Biblical love, can only be expressed through faithful obedience to the principles and commandments of God’s word. We really love only to the degree that we do what He says!

Love understands boundaries of fellowship — “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Scripture uses, “if,” as a conditional statement. Our fellowship with God and one another is conditional based upon how we walk. It is possible to walk in darkness (1 John 1:6), to walk unwisely (Eph. 5:15-18), and to walk lovelessly (Eph. 5:2-7). In other words, the Bible teaches that love and fellowship are not the same thing. For example, God’s love extends to all humanity (Titus 2:11), but He has clearly stated that not everyone will accept His loving fellowship and choose to be saved (Matt. 7:13-14; 2 Pet. 3:9). Therefore, it is wrong to assume that love automatically accepts and wholeheartedly embraces the lifestyle and behavior of another. Love cannot be fully comprehended until one understands the nature of sin in the eyes of God (Isa. 59:1-2; Hab. 1:12-13).

Love fulfills the human life — “Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind… love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-40). It’s time we started discussing the fact that nobody will find true fulfillment in this life while clinging to a subjective definition of love. If every man is free to do what’s right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6), then who defines what it means to be loving? This is the dilemma in which our culture finds itself: if “love” can be redefined and changed to suit our needs, then how can one ever be satisfied that he or she meets the standards of love? Said another way, how can you find genuine fulfillment if you are constantly chasing a subjective set of standards that change with the fickle winds of culture? God teaches that He Himself is the standard of moral (loving) behavior, and that the more like Him we strive to be, the more we will find the satisfaction that nothing else can provide (Matt. 11:29). Seeking to love the way God loves is truly the best possible manner of life (cf. 1 Pet. 4:8). — JB