Imagine if you will, a couple, a man and a woman, winding their way up a mountain trail together, hand-in-hand, doting on one another as they make their way up the path. The man spies an encroaching bear and jumps out in front of his wife, weapon in hand, and fights the bear off with all his might. He suffers wounds in the confrontation but successfully protects his wife from injury.
Later on down the road the couple sets up camp for the night. The husband, worn down from the fight and hurting from the woulds he sustained falls into a fast, fitful sleep. The wife is dozing off when familiar growls in the distance startle her. She turns to wake her husband but sees him slumbering peacefully. She doesn’t want to interrupt his rest, raise his fear and anxiety level and force him to move his aching body in response to the lurking menace. After all, she reasons, the bear was probably only trying to play around with them in the first place, before her husband overreacted and caused it to become aggressive. The wife perceives no real threat and leaves her husband be and falls asleep at his side.
The description of what follows is too graphic for those with delicate sensitivities. Needless to say, the journey of the couple ends only moments later in a blur of blood and bone.
Both spouses demonstrated a form of love to one another in the aforementioned circumstances. The man expressed a beneficial love that looked out for the well-being of another over himself.
The woman, expressing a love of a different kind, wished to spare her husband any negative emotions. She desired to protect his feelings at the expense of his well-being.
Who loved who more? Which person demonstrated a godly kind of love?
You should, of course, be bewildered and angry at the wife’s completely nonsensical actions. The kind of love she demonstrated is in fact no love at all, but neglects and outright despises her husband’s best interests. First, she values his emotional state over his welfare, then convinces herself that a genuine threat to their lives is in fact simply a misinterpretation of reality.
The story is so ludicrous that it defies reality. No one would act in such a manner!
Or would they?
The Nashville Statement released several months back has shone a spotlight on the concept of love. The statement has divided Christianity into two distinct camps. One has affirmed the marriage covenant as God has ordained in scripture; the other has forged a new definition of marriage, sexuality and gender identity. Both camps claim that their position is rooted in God’s love. Both cannot be right. So which position truly demonstrates the love of God and which one expresses a worldly kind of love?
What does it mean to love like God loves? How does he express love?
God first demonstrates love in creation. He made all things so that man may enjoy them and marvel at His glory. Creation is an expression of God’s self-giving love. He performed all the wonders of creation apart from any necessity to do so. God doesn’t need us, He is perfect, lacking no good thing. God is content within the fellowship of the Trinity; He doesn’t require our companionship. No, God acted in creation out of his good pleasure to give. He created us to enjoy Him forever. God owes no obligation to man, but nonetheless has dedicated Himself to bless us with the pleasure and perfection of His presence on the stage of creation.
God primarily demonstrates love in self-sacrifice. Our Lord is long-suffering, enduring man’s tyrannical reign of sin. The truth is, God isn’t constrained by necessity to do so. But He has constrained himself in love. His love for mankind has manifested itself in patient endurance, which is in itself a form of self-sacrifice. This self-sacrifice reaches full bloom in the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ. God’s self-giving nature provided the world with a needed savior. Jesus lived a life of self-sacrificial obedience to God’s perfect law. He died a sacrificial lamb for the sins of the world. God giving His only begotten Son is the definitive statement of His self-giving and self-sacrificing nature.
The reason God is self-giving and self-sacrificing is because He tirelessly works to attain the highest possible good for those he loves. This is what true love does. He gave us creation for our enjoyment. He sacrificed that we may be reconciled. It is our highest good that God is concerned about. Without the commitment to our highest good then there would be no self-giving and self-sacrifice. Our well-being in the physical realm is the reason for His self-giving in creation. The wellness of our soul is the reason for His self-sacrifice in giving His Son.
Humans, as God’s image-bearers in the earth are to live and love according to these principles of self-giving and self-sacrificing. These truths should be manifested in relationships with friends, co-workers and primarily in marriages and families. These principles extend to everyone who can be called neighbor. People we don’t particularly like or get along with, even those who are our enemies are worthy of our investment. We should express a desire to see that the highest possible good can be attained for them. We too often judge a person’s worth by what they say or do, but God has taught us that every single person is created in his image and thus worthy of dignity and honor, no matter the depths of sin they may sink to in this life. Christians show this in the same way God has expressed himself: in acts of mercy and grace. We are to treat all people with dignity and respect, yet call them to repentance and faith. To fall short of this is to act in defiance of the very nature of God that is in us. Proclaiming truth is the ultimate expression of love, even if it initially wounds, bringing pain or discomfort to an individual. Truth does not spare feelings in the pursuit of attaining a person’s highest good.
Contrast this with a worldly definition of love. Feelings are ultimate rather than the highest good of an individual, though these two positions in sinful man are often at odds with one another. Advocates of post-modernistic ideologies try and resolve this dichotomy by imploring society that a positive self image is the highest good attainable for self and neighbor alike. Coddling feelings used to be reserved exclusively to the domain of young children, but now therapeutic reassurance can commonly be found at the adult level in our universities, government and corporations.
Affirmation of disordered thinking and emotional instability is a subjective response to a subjective impression. Objective judgments, whether based on reason, reality, or truth are not allowable. Postmodern culture must advocate and affirm the way people feel so that they may attain self-worth and societal acceptance. People must speak buttery smooth words, manufacturing warm fuzzies in their listeners’ hearts about who they believe they are. Their ears itch to hear that what they do is good and self-affirming.
Citizens great and small, rich and poor are pressured to comply to the emotionally driven doctrine of Sola Feels. The ancient serpentine tactic of ‘hath God truly said?’ now has a follow-up question: ‘How do you truly feel?’ The former undermines divine revelation while the latter exalts human emotion. The zeitgeist teaches feelings alone establish truth and determine reality. What God has ordained through nature and direct revelation in order for the gears of created society to turn and prosper doesn’t even enter into the minds of a culture preoccupied and deluded by their own fantasies. ‘What do you feel yourself to be?’ is the only question that matters anymore.
The idea that what makes a person feel happy is what will make a person truly satisfied is both narcissistic and nihilistic. It is narcissistic in the sense that objective truth about what is good for us takes a back seat to the desires which give us pleasure. It is nihilistic in the sense that without an acknowledgement of any divine revelation to govern us and our desires then all things are open to us. The old school nihilistic mantra of ‘eat, drink and be merry’ has given way to the new school ‘feel, fantasize and pretend’. It all ends in worms and dust anyway, so be what you will, do what you want to do. Without an understanding of God’s objective truths concerning law, sin and redemption, which lead us to the highest good and the most complete happiness and fulfillment, then all of the supposed self-giving and self-sacrifice we may extend to others is ultimately as meaningless as the nihilistic desires that motivate us.
Compare and contrast love of the world to God’s kind of love. Who is the foundation of your love, God or the world?
- Worldly love is based on feelings. Godly love is grounded in truth.
- Worldly love does not offend. Godly love wounds.
- Worldly love does not express shame. Godly love exposes our shame.
- Worldly love is subjective. Godly love is objective.
- Worldly love changes. Godly love is unchangeable.
- Worldly love encourages sin. Godly love confronts sin.
- Worldly love is intolerant. Godly love reaches out.
- Worldly love affirms self. Godly love denies self.
- Worldly love does not discriminate. Godly love discerns.
- Worldly love parades. Godly love practices.
- Worldly love gratifies. Godly love suffers.
- Worldly love embraces its own kind. Godly love regards its enemies.
- Worldly love despises. Godly love forgives.
- Worldly love indulges. Godly love sacrifices.
- Worldly love embraces lies. Godly love rejoices in the truth.
- Worldly love distracts. Godly love warns.
- Worldly love rushes to judgment. Godly love vindicates.
- Worldly love calls good evil and evil good.
- Godly love calls evil evil and good good.
- Worldly love is commitment to do evil even if it appears to help us and heal others.
- Godly love is commitment to do good even when it hurts us and wounds others.