A battered woman was encouraged to return to her husband with the advice that, “Love conquers all.” However, she was found dead several months later.
Perhaps love will not conquer all. One woman suggested that the wife simply had failed to love completely enough. In other words, the fault was hers and not the batterer’s.
On another occasion, a young professional woman confidently informed me that if we truly practiced love, we would not need the police or even the military. Love would overcome the hardest of hearts. No reminders of serial killers, Hitler, Genghis Khan, or Stalin would convince her otherwise. It seemed that she was convinced that, because love has meant so much to her, it can cure everything. One size fits all.
Well, if it is as simple as that, why hasn’t the “love message caught on?” Why are there still wars and criminals? She was convinced that greed and corruption had undermined attempts at loving. However, I didn’t get to ask her my next question: “Why hadn’t love overcome the ‘greed and corruption?’”
The youth, especially, are convinced that the answer is simple – love. However, even adults believe this way. Just today, I read:
- The Bishop of Stockholm has proposed a church in her diocese remove all signs of the cross and put down markings showing the direction to Mecca for the benefit of Muslim worshippers.
It is not that she is unaware of the problems. In the same article, Chief Superintendent Torsten Elofsson illustrated that the red carpet need not be rolled out for the Muslims. On their own, they are making themselves quite comfortable in Sweden:
- “Years ago you could go with two officers, no problem. Now you have to send four officers and two cars – if the fire brigade want to go, they have to take a police escort. They throw stones and try to stop the fireman from putting out fires.
- “They sabotage the police cars. You can’t leave them unguarded – when you come back to it you find the windows smashed and the tires deflated. It isn’t quite a no-go zone, but we have had to develop special routines to go there”
Politicians are very aware of these disturbing facts. However, they have managed to convince themselves that love will overcome. Just make the Muslims feel accepted and loved, and they will reciprocate with love. Never mind that we find no examples of this in the Western world or even throughout history. Faith in the power of love seems to be impervious to any evidence.
We now treat our children with “unconditional positive regard.” Schools refuse to do anything that might bruise their self-image or feelings. Shame, let alone corporal punishment, is entirely rejected in favor of love – the carrot without the stick. However, as many have reported, we are raising a generation of heathen. Disciplinary problems are accelerating.
From where did this emphasis on love come? Not from the Romans and the Greeks. Historian Rodney Stark commented that their love was very limited:
· “Classical philosophy regarded mercy and pity as pathological emotions—defects of character to be avoided by all rational men. Since mercy involves providing unearned help or relief, it was contrary to justice.”
Love and mercy has been a central theme of the Christian Church. The Christian theologian Tertullian (200AD) claimed that:
· “We Christians have everything in common except our wives. It is our care of the helpless, our practice of lovingkindness that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents. ‘Look,’ they say, “how much they love one another.’”
Aristides of Athens added:
· “If the brethren have among them a man in need and they have not abundant resources, they fast for a day or two so as to provide the needy man with the necessary food!”
Even the pagans commented on Christian love. Lucian (190 AD) observed:
· “The earnestness with which people of this religion help one another in their needs is incredible. They spare themselves nothing for this end.”
Emperor Julian, an opponent of Christianity:
· “Ordered the creation of hospices saying, ‘It would be shameful, when the Jews have no beggars, when the impious Galileans feed our own people along with their own, that ours should be seen to lack the help we owe them.’” (How Christianity Conquered the World)
Julian was not alone in noticing Christian love. The Western world has become convinced of the primacy of love.
From where did the emphasis on love among Christians come? Jesus, in concert with the teachings of the Hebrew Bible (Lev. 19:17-18), taught:
· Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matthew 5:44-48)
However, Jesus also taught that love had to be accompanied by wisdom and discernment. In the same Sermon, He warned that love had its limitations:
· "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6)
There were times when love would not conquer all, when the disciples would have to pack up their pearls and move on:
· If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:14-16)
His disciples would have to be “shrewd” about giving their riches. They would have to exercise discernment, because love would not overcome all obstacles.
The disciples were not to naively “hang in there” with indulgent love, expecting that it would conquer all. Instead, they had to be mindful of the dangers:
· Then He [Jesus] charged them, saying, "Take heed, beware of the leaven [teachings] of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." (Mark 8:15)
Jesus didn’t instruct his disciples to merely befriend and love the Pharisees until they’d come around to the truth. Instead, there were people from whom they would have to flee, because love would not prevail with them:
· "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15)
The New Testament often acknowledges that love will not conquer all. In such cases, the believer is counseled to depart (Rom. 16:17; 2 Tim. 3:5-6; 2 Thess. 3:14; 2 John 1:10-12).
Love is powerful, but it must be guided by wisdom. When it is not, it becomes indulgence and enablement. Secular culture has embraced the idea of love but not its accompanying and necessary wisdom. This has brought upon the West the fruits of decay and destruction.