Saturday, March 29, 2014

What About Love?

A Mother's Love

My mother's love still brightens my heart. She loved me enough to switch my bare legs with a keen willow branch when I rebelled against her. She held me close and nurtured me when I was hurting. Her love lives on in my inner being.

I know that Jesus loved His mother. It is beyond my comprehension how He was able to look down at her from the cross, and to carry on with His plan to die a terrible death with her watching from the foot of the cross. He could have called ten thousand angels to destroy His enemies, and to deliver Himself from death. But, for the joy set before Him of bringing many sons to God, He despised the shame of the cross, and endured the agony in His mother's eyes. Jesus suffering so that others may live is the definition of sacrificial love, agape.

The English word love is used to translate Biblical words that mean erotic love, friendship love, and sacrificial love. It seems that some folks only think of erotic love when they see the word love. In their minds, love is associated with warm and fuzzy feelings, or a stirring in the loins. Some people who promote homosexual rights sometimes say that David and Jesus were homosexuals because it is said that David loved Jonathan, and Jesus loved John. This way of thinking is stupid.

The context within which a word is used determines the intended meaning, and sacrificial love should never be confused with erotic or sexual love.

After His resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved Him. Peter responded with a different word that meant friendship.

John 21:15-17
Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love (agape) Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love (phileo) You." [How could Peter say, unequivocally, I love (agape) you, after he had so miserably failed him?] He said to him, "Tend My lambs." (16) He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love (agape) Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love (phileo) You." He said to him, "Shepherd My sheep." (17) He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love (phileo) Me?" [notice that the Lord changed the word from agape to phileo] Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love (phileo) Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (phileo) You." Jesus said to him, "Tend My sheep. [Peter was “grieved” not because Jesus asked him a third time, but because Jesus lowered the standard.] We can only imagine the heartbreak Peter was feeling. Before fear and isolation enveloped Peter during the crucifixion he would have boldly said, “Lord, how could you ask such a thing? Of course I love (agape) you!” But his actions showed how miserably he failed to agape the Lord. He had previously even denied friendship (phileo) with the Lord!  

Sacrificial love is the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit. I Cor 13 gives a listing of what agape love does, and it concludes that love is greater than faith and hope, because after faith and hope are realized, love endures. Love is eternal. Thus we are told that God is Love, and that His mercy endures forever.

But God's love demands justice and righteousness, and gives us the power to live righteous lives, when we love and trust in God. It was Jesus dying on the cross, while watching the despair in Mary's eyes, that fulfilled the justice and righteousness of God. The wages of sin is death. The sinner dies, he runs from God's presence, he hides in the bushes, and attempts to fashion clothing from leaves to cover his shame.  But God prepared suitable clothing, the righteousness of Jesus, that is available to all who believe in Jesus. 

But that loving embrace, like a mother's love, is only available to those who are willing, who come to Jesus and reside in Him. Destruction lurks for all who leave the protective love of God, who flee to the world for satisfaction, who reject the love of God. Stripes on bare legs with a willow switch is nothing compared to what the world gives to those who trust in themselves, and who reject the love of God.  

For those who accept and abide in the love of God, we must love one another. Love encourages fidelity, and fidelity demands obedience to the righteous principles of God, taught by His word. Love demands that we walk in the light of His love. Walk means we have some responsibility for doing good, for sharing the good news.  

Jesus, John, and Mary

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 

John 19:23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.”This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,
“They divided my garments among them,
   and for my clothing they cast lots.”
So the soldiers did these things, 25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

John, the apostle who sat next to Jesus at the Lord’s Supper, said this about God’s love: John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

For God So Loved the World

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Yes, walking in the light does not mean being enslaved to the lust of the flesh and doing as we please in rebellion against the clear teaching of God's word. Claiming love as permission for behavior that deviates from the revelation of righteousness in Jesus is not walking in the light. Our genetic composition is not license for living against the will of God. We must learn to control our natural tendencies to anger, avarice, lust, hatred, covetousness, and self destruction. We are called to walk in the light, and not in the natural order of time and chance. There is a way that seems right to mankind, but the end of that path is destruction. Love calls us to deny self, and to work for the good of all.

Yes, the world is enticing; looks good, feels good, lets one be their own guide (god?).  But the end is death and destruction.  We must flee from the idea of using the world's definition of "love" to encourage toleration for sin. Yes, we love all people, and Jesus came to call sinners to salvation. But when we come to Jesus and experience His love, we are called to love righteousness and holiness, and to join the battle against evil. 

Isaiah 5:20-- 
Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!

The politically correct advocates of evolutionary living want to teach our children that actions forbidden by the teaching of the Bible are ok. The time has come for those who love Jesus to say "enough!"

Love is not permissive, but restrictive. Love involves using a willow branch to switch bear legs, to teach avoidance of my rebellion against righteousness. Love involved destroying the world with water, to wipe out sin and preserve righteousness. Love promises to destroy the worldly order of time and chance with fire. There is a battle between what the world considers love (permissiveness), and what has been eternally established as love (sacrifice for the good of all). 

Which side are you on?

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