Learning To Love

June 4, 2014

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And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  Romans 5:5

Scores of voices the world over shout, “Love is the answer–the answer to broken homes and hearts, the answer to racial strife.  Love is the answer to our personal woes.  It is the answer to failing marriages, to communicating with your spouse.  Love is the answer to about everything.”  It would be hard not to agree with the premise, but the balloon of hope is burst with one question, “How do you start loving and stop hating?”  Is love so liquid that its flow can be turned on and off like a faucet?

George Bernard Shaw, the illustrious playwright, sensed the problem when he wrote, “I was taught when I was young that if people would only love one another, all would be well with the world.  This seemed simple and very nice; but I found when I tried to put it into practice not only that other people were seldom lovable, but that I was not very lovable myself.”

Love begins not with hope that things can be better, but with God.  “God is love,” says the Apostle John, “and love is of God” (I John 4:7).  The chemistry of love begins not with us but with a loving God who reaches towards us much as a father reaches to steady a child learning to walk.  Do you remember the words of perhaps the most widely known verse in the New Testament, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16)?

When God’s Son came to this earth 20 centuries ago, there were three words commonly used to express love.  Eros (from which we get our word erotic) was never used by Jesus nor does it appear in the New Testament.  It was a sensual, sexual kind of love, the selfish kind that we see much of today.  Another word for love, philia, is used forty‑five times by the New Testament writers.  The ancient Greeks used this word to express an emotional kind of love, a kind of brotherly love.

But the word used for love most frequently in the New Testament is the word agape.  It is used differently in the New Testament than in the writings of the ancient Greeks.  The writers of the New Testament wanted to express a superior kind of love, a higher concept of love than was previously known.  So they took a word and gave it a new meaning.  In its biblical context, this kind of love begins with God the Father and becomes operative in our lives through His presence.  So Paul writes, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5).

God literally invades your life and gives to you the human potential, the capability, to love in a dimension you have never known before.  I think of it as a relationship expressed by a capital letter‑‑L, or a right angle pointing up.  Love begins with God at the top of the letter L.  Through faith in Jesus Christ, you can enter into a new relationship with God that allows His love to flow into your life.  Then that love can flow through you in a horizontal relationship to others.  The only answer to love is the vertical relationship to God that gives us the capability to love as we really ought to.

Love is not sentimental slush.  It is not wishful thinking.  It can be a tremendously operative force in your life.  Take inventory.  Are you short on this business of love?  Has your capacity to love been bottled up because of an inadequate relationship to God?  When the pipeline through which love must flow gets clogged with hurt and resentment, it’s time to stop and ask God to restore the flow of His love through our lives.  Remember, according to what Jesus said, your ability to love is the one incontrovertible proof or evidence that God has touched your life.  What more could you ask for?

Resource reading: 1 John 3.

Bible References

  • John 3:16
  • Romans 5:5
  • 1 John 3

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