Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Meaning of Love

Jesus’ ministry was about compassion (Mat. 9:36; 14:4; 20:34; Mark 8:2; Luke 7:13) and love (John 15:9; 11:5; 13:1; 19:26; Rom. 8:35; 5:8; Mark 10:21; 1 John 3:16).

His disciples knew that Jesus loved them. In his Gospel, John was very explicit about knowing Jesus’ love for him (John 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). However, it is likely that they all knew that Jesus loved them. He eventually made it very plain to them by laying down His life.

However, the Gospel accounts lack any verse where Jesus encouraged His disciples. He never told them that they were growing or doing a good job. Instead, Jesus was very critical of them. For example, He corrected Philip right before He would be taken from them:

·       “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?” (John 14:9-10)

Despite His critical talk, they knew that Jesus loved them. I think that this points to a fundamental difference in how we measure and understand love as opposed to the 1st century understanding. Today, we measure love in terms of how highly the other regards me – the kind things they say about me, their lack of criticism of me, and their agreement with my lifestyle choices. In other words, we measure love in terms of affirmation. If you affirm me, you love me. If you don’t, then you hate me.

Perhaps there is something wrong with the way we measure love. Instead, the Bible measures love by our willingness to sacrifice ourselves for the ultimate welfare of another. Jesus defined love this way:

·       My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12-13)

And Jesus modeled this love by dying for us. How then do we love our neighbor? Not necessarily with agreeable and encouraging words – words of affirmation! Jesus often spoke painful words to people, but this was because they needed to hear them (Mark 10:21).

We too must love enough to go beyond stroking egos and affirming our friends so that will like and appreciate us. If we love, we will confront as Jesus confronted. We will pursue the ultimate welfare of the other, even if they might hate us for this.

Jesus informed the Pharisees that if they didn’t believe in Him, they would die in their sins (John 8:24). Those words might have seemed harsh, but they were words of love, spoken to undermine false hopes in favor of the One true hope!

We too must expose false hopes to show the way to the One true hope. One friend related to me her regrets. She had many homosexual friends and would even party with them at the gay bars and clubs, never once warning them about their false hope. She now laments that she had come to understand love too late for them.

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