What Is Biblical Love?

Paul is clear about what it is. Love is giving — giving of oneself to another. It is not getting as the world says today. It is not feeling and desire; it is not something over which one has no control. It is something that one does for another. No one loves in the abstract. Love is an attitude that issues forth in something that actually, tangibly happens. Notice Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5:25). John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” In Galatians 2:20 we read, “He loved me and gave himself for me.” “If your enemy hungers, give him something to eat. If your enemy thirsts, give him something to drink. Do good to those who despitefully use you.” Love is not first a feeling, but rather a giving of oneself to another. Feeling follows.

Hollywood has distorted love, the television screen distorts it, musical records distort it. Everywhere today, love is considered a happening. It just happens. “I couldn’t help it,” said the young man who had gotten himself and his girl into trouble in the back seat of an automobile. “I couldn’t help it.” he is feeling oriented, but not love oriented. He is desire motivated, but not love motivated. True love is always under control. It is commanded. Christ commands, “Love your enemies.” You can’t sit around whom-ping up a good feeling for your enemies. It doesn’t come that way. But if you give an enemy something to eat or give him something to drink, soon something begins to happen to your feelings. When you invest yourself in another, you begin to feel differently toward him. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The feeling must be based on something solid. the feeling that develops out of giving is genuine and lasting. But feelings that are based on love are fickle. When such spurious love happens, what happens when the happening stops happening. Feelings are not dependable; they are up one day, down the next. Feelings not always under control but true love is. The Bible commands, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body, soul, and strength; love your neighbour as yourself, and love your enemies.”

When there is no love in a home, it is the husband’s fault. Principally the responsibility for loves in the home falls not on the wife (she should show love, of course), but on the husband. The husband must love his wife as Jesus Christ loves His Church. Listen to 1 John 4:19: “We love” (that is, the church; remember, the wife reflects the church); “We love [the church loves] because he [Jesus Christ] first loved us.” That is how love for Christ began. It was not because the church was so loving and lovable that Jesus just couldn’t help but love her; but rather, while we were enemies, while we were sinners, while we were rebellious, vile, and loathsome creatures in His sight, Jesus first loved us — and gave His life for us! He looked at us with love in spite of it all and determined to set His love on us. He elected us in love for us, apart from anything in us that would commend us to Him.

If love is grown cold in a family, the husband should be encouraged to do something about it. He must be urged to emulate the love of Jesus Christ for his Church, stressing his responsibility to initiate love. He must not allow him to plead, “I can’t love her because she doesn’t love me.” Instead, he might respond, “Jesus loved us when we had no love for Him.You are the head of your home. If there is little or no love in that home, it is the husband fault. God holds the husband responsible to introduce love. At least the love can be shown. He must begin by giving. He must give his time, his interest, his money, himself. it is possible that the wife will fail to return his love, no matter how much he gives. But regardless, there can be love in that home. His love for her can permeate all. If the home is cold and sterile, the husband has the prime responsibility to change the situation. The wife, in Ephesians 5, is not told to love her husband; she is told to submit. the husband is told to love his wife. It must be a difficult job. But to honour and reflect Christ’s love the husband must not fail.”

Love, therefore, may be commanded (Luke 6:27 ff.; Ephesians 5:25) and taught (Titus 2:3-4). Love does not come naturally, it must be learned. But since it is the fruit of the Spirit, Christians may be sure that it will take the work of God’s Spirit in their lives to learn to love. The Spirit works through prayerful obedience to the Scriptures. 

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