So we have finally arrived at our final lesson. You all have read 6 posts and over 7000 words on the analysis of what love should mean to a Christian, but even if we can explain to everyone that love is a choice and the emotions we feel as humans are simply an incomplete echo of the divine: how do we show that choice in our lives? What exactly do we need to do daily to show that we choose to love?
First, this will be a very long-form factor post, but I think it will be worth it. While on Earth, Christ was approached by the Pharisees (after He elegantly shut down the Sadducees) and asked a simple question “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”
Now He could have answered them differently, but He answered in a very peculiar way. He gave them two old testament commands that would encompass all other orders, and that was simply to love. If we love, we will constantly be doing what God wants us to do. After 7000 words, we should all know what love is by now. But I want to look at these commandments a little more in-depth, and then we can truly understand how to apply this love.
LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, SOUL, AND MIND.
While this command above is technically paraphrased (“All your” should be in front of the other two objects as well), we understand the premise. Christ told the Pharisees (while the Sadducees remained there, I imagine) that the greatest commandment out of 700+ in the Old Testament was simple. Love God.
See, as I said before, God chose to love us. He could have left us on this rock to go start again somewhere else, and possibly sin wouldn’t have reached that place. He didn’t, though. He sent His only Son on this earth to actually teach about our good Father in Heaven. We must, in the same way, due to sin, choose to love Him. How do we do that according to God himself? We do it by loving him with our heart, our soul, and our mind.
LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART
God told Jeremiah, “The heart is more deceitful than anything else and incurable—who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9, CSB) Why does God want that to love him? Remember, love is a choice. A choice is choosing to do one thing over something else. God wants us to use our hearts to love Him. That means we purposefully put off our evil and fallible ways to actively give our emotional self to Him. We are being honest with our Creator in a purposeful way. Ironically with the power of Christ and our own willpower to choose to love, we might not be able to “cure” the heart, but we can “man the wheel of life” a little more efficiently with it.
LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR SOUL
The greek word for soul is “Psyche,” which obscures this meaning even further. The Greek word Psyche translates very literally as the “Breath of Life” or the thing that makes us human. The Apostle Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthian Church, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” We are to choose to do everything in life: working, raising children, paying bills, cleaning up messes, dealing with other people, all to God’s glory. Jesus also told us as well, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). If we are to keep God’s commandments, we need to express them in our daily life, thought life, and even the minuscule little tasks we don’t think about. It has to become our Identity, the thing that makes us human. In the 2nd letter to the Corinthians, Paul also writes, “Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us.” (2 Cor. 4:7, CSB). If we allow ourselves to put off our chains of sin and fallibility in order to follow God’s commands with all our might, we will show him we love Him. Then our Identity is no longer bound to sin or to earth or to personality, but to God.
LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR MIND
The one point of all this that we have shirked off as Christians in the past two hundred years. This one point has pushed our faith to the shelves of mere opinion, much like the decision to say “Tom-ah-to” instead of “Tom-ae-to.” It has pushed the Truth to the dark corners of the world and doomed our society itself. We no longer know how to love the Lord our God with all our minds. Instead, churches rarely teach it, instead opting for a feel-good message about how “God is Love” without explaining the phrase.
So how do we love God with all our mind? Much like we love anyone, we have to learn about them; however, as God is an infinite being with properties much too mysterious for mere mortals, we must study Him to understand Him. This is a lifelong endeavor and can be as simple as maintaining a relationship through prayer and devotions. We do this so He can give experiential knowledge to us about Him, or it can be as in-depth as seminary, studies in philosophy/science/logic/reason/etc., and hermeneutics.
Either way, we must devote parts of our lives to understanding Him and understanding who He is.
THIS IS NOT GOING TO BE EASY
Actually, it’s probably the most challenging thing. We have a million challenges working against us, some intentional and some unintentional. See, our natural life is not made to want to know God. It is filled with distractions, with a common enemy that wants to see us destroyed, an imperfect will, and a deceitful heart. Every morning we must start in prayer and ask God to give us the strength to love him daily. He wants that more than anything or He wouldn’t have made that the Greatest Commandment.
Suppose we choose to love God first above everything else. In that case, this includes your kids, assets, spouse, extended family, etc., then everything else will fall in line. God will take care of you while your mind is on him.
LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF
Jesus, in the same way, told the small crowd, “The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22:37). This is one of my biggest pet peeves from all Christians and non-Christians alike, the second being “Don’t judge” (in the whiniest voice possible). This is also the part where this is going to get very long. To truly show how you should love yourself and love your neighbor, we will finally analyze the New Testament’s love chapter. This should bring the final answer to “What is love.”
Again in his first letter, Paul writes to the Corinthians, probably one of the most famous passages in the Bible if not in all of literature. In it he starts this way.
“If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:1-3, CSB).
He understands that and wants to impart that no matter what we do in life, nor how great we become, if we don’t choose to love God first (as described above) and people (as described now), it is for naught. If Christ came to this earth and performed His ministry without performing miracles and showing compassion, it would not have had the same effect. People would not have told the world about Him, they would not have spread the gospel far and wide, and I think many people would not have believed that He is God. Through it all, He also added another element to God which was not blatantly seen beforehand among the Jews. He added the idea that God is Love.
We are going to break this second portion up line by line so we can analyze it.
Love is Patient.
When we make a choice to love someone. To put ourselves in that position of vulnerability for the betterment of the other individual, we understand that we are relying on someone else to make things happen and allow a relationship to thrive. We can not allow our patience, however, to be misconstrued as love. Patience is only a part of that love. Actions, choices, and end results do not always happen in our time or how we like them; therefore, we must be patient. That patience should never be shown as true love though. While patience is a virtue, it isn’t love. It’s merely a part of it.
Love is kind.
Like patience above it, kindness isn’t love. As alluded to in the second part of the series, society seems to think tolerance equals love. It doesn’t equal love; in fact, a person can be totally divorced from love yet still be kind. True love, divine love, has a characteristic of kindness. There are distinct differences as well. I may be jumping ahead a bit here, but kindness without love is akin to tolerance and enablement. Kindness, inclusive of love, puts away all bad things for the benefit of the other.
Love Does not envy.
Love can’t be envious; it can’t be jealous. By definition, envy comes from the selfish side of humanity. Pride is an infernal sin that is not animalistic in any way; it comes from the very fires of Hell. Love is giving, open and selfless.
Love is not Boastful, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable.
All of these are included in this line because they all fall under pride. Boasting is putting the spotlight on oneself; however, love can’t be that because love is about the other person. It can’t be rude; if we’re to love someone else as we love ourselves, we would always be nice to ourselves. It’s also not self-seeking; once again, love is about the other person. If we truly want what’s best for our neighbor or our kids or our spouse, we can’t have a hidden agenda that will undermine the whole process. Finally, it is not irritable, when the other person doesn’t do what we want and can’t see the love we are showing, we can’t get irritated. It is only through persistence that we can truly show them love.
Love keeps no records of wrongdoings.
People will often keep a list of things people have done to them in their head to throw back at them when they’re angry. They want to make the person feel worse than they already are. Like I wrote before, we have a common enemy that wants to see us destroyed. If we’re mentally beaten, it’s a lot easier to find a way to take us off the planet as well. You can not say you love anyone if you keep a record of someone’s mistakes. That someone is just as fallible as you and I. If you are beating them down with error, after mistake after mistake, they will either break down or snap, and it won’t be a good outcome for either.
Finally, love finds no joy in unrighteous but rejoices in Truth.
In society’s version of love, love is a mystical emotion and special power that forgives everything, enables all actions, and can’t be helped. That is so far from the Truth that I have written over the past 7 weeks. If a person you choose to love continuously lives in unrighteousness, you must distance yourself from them. They are a harbinger of death, and your life will begin to pay as well. One who chooses to love from a Divine standpoint does not enable, excuse, nor forgive continuous activity that is an insult to God himself. Remember, our first commandment is to love God, our second is to love man. If a man is not doing what God expects, we must distance ourselves from them.
The Application of Love.
As humans, we must display each of these attributes every time we choose to love. It sounds daunting, demanding, and full of effort. It is.
Loving is a choice but also a command. See, the funny thing is that you would expect anyone else to do these things towards you, but we have the most challenging time doing it towards others. That’s precise why God said, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, because it is human nature to put oneself the highest.
Now to bring it all together. What is Love?
Love is applying your daily life in the worship of God by putting off the corruption of your heart, performing all tasks to the glory of God and choosing to study Him in daily prayer, bible reading and scholarly activities; in the same breath, we must choose to love man by including the attributes of patience, kindness and justice while eschewing pride, irritability, selfishness and jealousy at all times.
“Now these three remain: Faith, Hope and Love- but the greatest of these is love”
– Something Extraordinary, Series 1: What is Love