There is no real love outside of God, for all human love is conditional, but God’s love is unconditional.
Nowadays, the word ‘love’ is tossed around in the most casual way that it’s difficult to truly understand it’s depth. Of course, we will never fathom the depth of love, as God is love.
The Bible has a lot to say about love, St Paul in the first book of the Corinthians writes, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (I Cor. 13:13)
Let’s talk about love in the church today that is meant to be representing God’s love for humanity.
Do you look forward to going to church each week? Is it your place of refuge? Is it safe to love and be loved in your local church? Can you find healing there? If not, why not?
Christians need to read the following verses carefully as a large number of the churches are packed with programs that teach Christians how to serve God, yet there is an acute absence of love. St Paul warned the Corinthian church of this.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.“
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
People love to look good, to be seen to be doing good, but nothing makes Jesus madder. He would rather we do nothing than give from an empty heart.
God sees into our hearts with laser vision. He can see and test every motive, so we must be vigilant, continually checking our hearts for sin. God detests wickedness and He will not let us away with it for long. So, what is love?
The Four Loves – Greek Names
1. Storge Love: (empathy bond) – this is the natural love and affection between parents and children and siblings. It’s also referred to as family love. This love is based on familiarity, close contact over a long period of time. C. S. Lewis in his book, The Four Loves, describes storge love as a dependency-based love that is at risk of extinction if the needs cease to be met.
2. Philia Love: (friend bond) – this is the love between friends as close as siblings in length and duration. Friendship is a strong bond between people who share common values, beliefs, and interests. Lewis describes friendship as “the least biological, organic, instinctive, gregarious and necessary…the least natural of loves”.
“Our species does not need friendship in order to reproduce, but to the classical and medieval worlds it is a higher-level love because it is freely chosen.” (Wikipedia.org)
3. Eros: (romantic love) – Many scholars say, The Song of Songs is a love dialogue between a man and woman, praising and wooing each other and recounting the highlights of their love (erotic love), however, other scholars say it refers to the love between man and God.
For Lewis, Eros meant, ‘being in love’ with someone, as opposed to the raw sexuality of what he called Venus. He goes on to say how Eros in all his splendor could lead to evil and is not as neutral a force as ‘being in love’ is.
4. Agape Love: (God’s love) – unconditional
“The highest and most noble form of love is reserved for the love that God has for us. Agape, pronounced uh-GAH-pay, is what Jesus demonstrated on the cross for us by sacrificing his life and taking on the entire burden of sin for all mankind so that we could have life everlasting with Him in Heaven.” (GEB.tv)
Also called Charity, it is the love that exists regardless of changing circumstances. Human love is very shallow, it is limited, whereas God’s love is limitless. It’s never-ending.
This selfless love is the greatest of the four loves. Once we experience this love, our relationships will improve and be based, less on dependency, and more on a desire to love for the sake of loving.
How do we become more loving every day?
As Christians, we are blessed because we have a guidebook on how to love. All we have to do is read it every day and apply the commands outlined in the Bible. It’s simple! So, why then is there a lack of love in the church?
Nonbelievers act more lovingly, a lot of the time. They know it’s good to treat people with respect. It’s a very good start. Why not be nice, polite, courteous, warm, welcoming, inclusive, friendly, and kind? I think every race and culture in the world knows that these are good ways to behave.
The reason why there’s a lack of genuine love in the church today is that it takes effort to be loving, and even more than that, it requires a clean heart. Selfish ambition prevents us from loving wholeheartedly.
What Does the Bible Say About Creating a Clean Heart?
It says, we need to know:
- What love is
- What love is not
Love is costly. It requires time, thoughtfulness, and effort.
We need to examine our own hearts. We are not in the habit of carrying out self-examinations. We are more inclined to look at the faults of others.
Later, when you have more time you can examine your heart. It is just between you and God. If you ask Him to search your heart as King David did in Psalm 51, He will do it. He searches our hearts through the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit then convicts us of our sin.
After that, it’s up to us to repent of that sin, stop it, and change our ways. This is how we create a clean heart that is pleasing to God.
What Does The Bible Say Love Is?
- It rejoices in the truth
- It always protects
- It always hopes
- It always perseveres
- It never fails
- It keeps no record of wrongs
- Always hopes
What Does The Bible Say Love Is Not
- Is not envious
- Is not boastful
- It is not proud
- It does not dishonor others
- It is not self-seeking
- It is not easily angered
- It does not delight in evil
The apostle Paul was relentless in teaching the believers how to walk in the Spirit. Many of the churches fell into sin and he had to go over the basic teachings again and again. ‘If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.’ (Galatians 5:25)
Put off the Old Man (old sin nature)
Sins are referred to as the works of the flesh (the old sin nature). They are the ungodly actions of man before regeneration (being born-again) but can continue in the believer’s life if they do not walk by the Spirit.
In the Book of Galatians, Paul warns them that those who sin will not inherit the kingdom of God:
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5: 19-21, ESV)
No study of sin and ungodliness would be complete without referring to the 10 commandments and the 7 Deadly Sins:
The Law of God in The Old Testament was given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai and is referred to as The 10 Commandments:
- You shall have no other Gods before me
- You shall make no idols
- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain
- Keep the sabbath day holy
- Honour your father and mother
- You shall not murder
- You shall not commit adultery
- You shall not steal
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour
- You shall not covet
The 7 Deadly Sins:
The seven deadly sins, as identified by Pope Gregory 1 in the late sixth century, are considered categories of sin: pride, envy, wrath, gluttony, lust, sloth, and greed (Lori Wildenberg).
Generally, the best way to understand what sin is is by reading the bible daily until you see it repeated over and over what sin is and how God hates it. We are encouraged not to focus on sin, but rather on love, truth, and godliness. We must be vigilant in self-examination.
To the nonbeliever, this sounds like a lot of rules, but for the born again believer who walks in the Spirit of God daily, it’s a joy, because it is the way to holiness. Sin grieves the believer greatly because the Holy Spirit lives in him.
We must learn to be like God and hate what He hates and love what He loves.
God wants us to grow in love and the more we pray, read the Bible, and fellowship with other godly people, the more we will want to love God, others, and ourselves.
This is what it means to be a new creation, transformed, by love, into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ.