Love has lost its true meaning. To be specific, as a culture we have redefined love to accommodate personal choice. The word love is used to justify inappropriate behavior ranging from sexual sin to physical abuse. It is sad to have heard women justify an abusive spouse by saying the words I love him. People have justified marital infidelity with a misconception of the meaning of love. As of recently the term “love wins” has become very popular. Another phrase being used in a combative manner is “love your neighbor.” It is difficult for me to understand either of these phrases in the context they are being used on social media. Two questions that are unanswered are what did love win? and how does love your neighbor equate to ignore God’s word? The redefining of love goes well beyond the debate of same-sex marriage and is at the root of morality.
A word picture of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV) Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
A culturally embraced definition of love would read Love is accepting me as I want to be regardless of my behavior. To use the description from the passage in 1 Corinthians would challenge a self-centered mindset. The biblical definition of love is not egocentric rather it is selfless. Loving a person does not mean accepting inappropriate or sinful behavior nor does it include expecting anything from them in a self-serving manner. Showing love to a person without embracing sin is powerful.
To properly understand the term ‘love your neighbor’ requires more than just a definition of words. Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV) “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Notice the greatest command is love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all our mind. It is not possible to love your neighbor as yourself and ignore the first commandment. Yet by ignoring God’s word, or worse by redefining scripture to suit personal preference, the greatest command is not kept. A review of the Ten Commandments revels that 1-4 are about loving God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind. Commandments 5-10 are about loving others as you love yourself and that brings us back to loving God. I pose the question is the struggle to love God or is it the struggle to love others?
Jesus was quoted in John 14:21 (ESV) Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. If this verse seems to indicate Christ’s love is conditional remember this; Romans 5:8 (ESV) but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
I have long-held the opinion that the decline of the Western Church is a direct result of not fulfilling the Great Commission of making disciples. I now understand that this is a result of ignoring the great commandment. Before declaring that others should love their neighbor be sure you love God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind.
Rev. Burt Schwab