Something is wrong with today's ideas about love. Many "loves" lead to great human tragedy. Why? This article explains what true love is and how it can be achieved!
AT NO TIME in history has so large a proportion of humanity rated the concept of love so highly. Love in human history has not always been as greatly valued, nor desired as it is today.
The Search for Love
Never before has L-O-V-E — particularly romantic love — been so sought after, spoken of, sung and written about. Movies, television, books and magazines portray love in many forms. Romanticized concepts of love are often represented as panaceas for feelings of inferiority, for loneliness and for achieving lasting happiness. Love is, according to some modern popular conceptions: sexual passion... affection... admiration... adoration... worship... respect ... caring... warm feelings... a fever... blind... incomprehensible... a mystery.
Most Have Never Known
You may have different definitions or concepts of love. You may be confused about what love is. Perhaps you have experienced, or thought you experienced, real 'love. The shocking fact is, the vast majority of humans living today, and throughout history, have never fully comprehended what true love is or upon what it is based! The love of which I'm speaking passes human or natural understanding. Every heartache, suffering and torment in human lives today — as throughout history — is because of wrong concepts of love. "Perfect love casts out fear," reveals the Bible (I John 4:18). True love is a spiritual attitude and way of dealing with life and others. It is a totally constructive, building, sharing and helping way of life. This love originates from God and reflects His character. "He who does not love does not know God; for God is love" (I John 4:8, Revised Standard Version). True love has direction, boundaries and power. The direction is perfecting God's purposes in life. The boundaries are God's laws. And the power is the spiritual immutability of these laws to produce good when obeyed and to produce suffering and penalties when disobeyed. True love, according to the Bible, the revelation of the Creator to mankind, "is kind," and "worketh no ill to his neighbour." True love "never fails" (I Corinthians 13:4, 8; Romans 13:10, King James translation). Lack of this kind of love is what is causing so many friendships, dates, courtships and marriages to turn into relationships of exploitation and sexual abuse. Because true spiritual love is missing in so many lives, many marriages — originally thought to be based on "true love" — collapse after a few months or years in bitter disillusionment, strife, divorce or violence. Perhaps love once existed, but it was allowed to die. Marriages without truelove often become, as one cynic put it, "A long, dull meal with the dessert first." It is not true love that produces ill-advised, forced or unwanted marriages. True love does not produce illegitimate children, venereal disease epidemics or abortion. Sexual emotions uncontrolled by true love often create the illusion or feelings of love when none really exists. Many tragedies result. Wrong love produces damaging ideas of what maturity means. It produces antagonisms among individuals and between the sexes. True love will not grow in a battle-of-the-sexes environment. The Bible reveals the laws upon which true love is built. It reveals the awesome purpose of human life. It reveals the proper relationships between the sexes. And also very importantly, your Bible reveals the source and nature of human nature and its impact on human motivation and human sexual energy. Without this knowledge from your Bible, you will not be able to discern all the false "loves" of this world.
Intended Love Between Sexes
In Genesis 1:26, the Creator said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." God created the sexes — "male and female created he them" (verse 27). Man and woman were given dominion over the earth. Adam and Eve — the first humans — had the opportunity to live and rule by God's laws and ways (verse 26). This first couple (and their progeny ever since) had minds capable of free choice. Physically, they had eyes, ears, hands, body and feet — after God's own likeness. But there were differences in sexual function, in emotions and talents. Note the proper marital relationships God intended in the beginning. In Genesis 2:18, God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make him an help meet [or fitting] for him." God created woman out of rib — next
"The vast majority of humans living today, and throughout history, have never fully comprehended what true love is..."
to Adam's heart. She was to be close to him. "[She] is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh," recognized Adam. The woman was to be loved and cherished by the man, as he loved himself. She was not an inferior person. She was not intended to be treated as a slave or a doormat, to be trodden underfoot, deprecated or devalued. She was created to complement the man and society with her special talents and abilities — first and foremost, the encouragement, support and inspiration of her husband, then the proper care and education of her children. And the man was to be equally respected for his position and abilities. God ordained marriage for the perfecting of love and for the proper use of sex. "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). "Becoming one flesh" is not just a sexual union — it is also becoming "one" mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It is growing in mutual respect and love — for an awesome purpose! God revealed later in scripture, "... husbands, dwell with them [wives] according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife... as being heirs together of the grace of [eternal] life..." (I Peter 3:7). And wives are to "revere" their husbands (Ephesians 5:33). Note their equal opportunity for spiritual salvation and reward before God. There is no human or spiritual inequality of worth. But God did give the man greater responsibility to take the leadership of the family, especially leadership in showing love (Ephesians 5:25). That is because, in any functioning unit, as the family, God establishes government and a line of responsibility. But many other human relationships exist. They also must be based on true love. God revealed His Ten Commandments — and applications of this law — to cover these additional situations.
The Two-fold Law of Love
The first four of the Ten Commandments reveals that true love is first expressed in respect, worship and obedience to God. It means not creating false gods, making or serving idols or misusing God's name and office. It includes keeping the seventh-day Sabbath, the only day ever sanctified or made holy by God. The last six commandments show how to love others: Honor your father and mother, do not murder, or commit adultery, or steal, or bear false witness or covet. When asked which was the greatest commandment, Jesus answered: "... Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind and with all thy strength. This is the first commandment. And the second [summarizing the last six commandments] is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself..." (Mark 12:30-31). Few realize that Jesus was here quoting out of Leviticus (chapter 19, verse 18). On another occasion He restated this law in what is now called the famous "golden rule" of living (in short, do unto others as you would have them do unto you) — Matthew 7:12. When God called Israel out from Egypt to be a holy people, He gave them definitive laws in right and wrong human relationships. Love toward neighbor was not being a tale bearer, bearing grudges or hate, or dealing deceptively or falsely, to name just a few (see Leviticus 19). God also enumerated wrong sexual passions and perverted "loves" to be kept out of their lives: adultery, premarital sex, homosexuality, bestiality, incest and other sex abuses (Leviticus, chapters 18 and 20). These acts were an "abomination" in God's eyes. It did not matter how surrounding cultures or nations labeled or justified them.
First Parents Rejected Knowledge
God taught Adam and Eve the essential laws of love. He taught them the ultimate purpose of human life — to "be as gods," eternal rulers with God. But Adam and Eve chose to believe Satan's lies (Genesis 3). Satan said they could "be as gods" right then and there. God was holding back knowledge selfishly for himself, Satan intimated. All they had to do was eat of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil," of which God forbade them to eat. Then, he said, they would be gods and decide for themselves what was good and evil. As a result of their disobedience, God cast them from the Garden of Eden, and from the opportunity to take of the "tree of life," which symbolized God's Holy Spirit and eternal life. God said, in effect: You have rejected my way of living, my way of love. You have stolen what was not yours. You believe Satan. Go, then. Be under Satan's sway. Form your own governments, laws and mores under his influence. Develop your own ideas of what is good and evil, your own idea of love. I give you 6,000 years to experiment with your own ideas under Satan's sway and experience the results. From the days of Cain until today, all humanity cut off from God have fulfilled the scriptures: "... ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof.... For... they hated
"It is not possible to express true spiritual love without understanding and appreciating the awesome potential of every human being."
[God's] knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord.... Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices" (Proverbs 1:25, 29, 31). The Bible reveals the major impulse behind human selfishness and lust, of getting for oneself at the hurt and expense of others: These attitudes and motivations are beamed into human minds by Satan, the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:4). Satan works to implant his own wrong ideas and to generate antagonisms between and among the sexes. He injects selfish attitudes that generate various lusts. Humans unwittingly inculcate those attitudes from Satan's spiritual bombardment through the air and from his influence within human cultures (see Ephesians 2:2-3). The apostle Paul described in Romans, chapter one, the horrible consequences that have arisen from human ideas of good, of evil and of "love" throughout history. These tragedies afflict all societies in one way or another.
Ultimate Objective of Love
It is not possible to express true spiritual love without understanding and appreciating the awesome potential of every human being. That potential is the potential of becoming a literal son of God, with the character and mind of God. Yes, that is the potential even of your enemy who may not yet know God or His ways. But God will call him in His own time and plan. (Read our free reprint, "Is This the Only Day of Salvation?") True love, then, is helping others, as well as yourself, achieve the incredible potential! Here is the agape — the Greek word for spiritual love — that the ancient philosophers, poets through the ages and modern theologians have talked about, but never really fully understood! This stupendous knowledge means that other men and women, and your own body and mind also, are not yours to do with as you feel. They are not yours to take, possess, abuse, degrade or harm. All life belongs to God! "Behold, all souls are mine..." (Ezekiel 18:4). "... for the world is mine and the fulness thereof' (Psalms 50:12). Worldly or deceptive love (biblically, lust) says: "If you really love me, you'll show me by having sex [premarital or extramarital] with me." True spiritual love answers: "If you really loved me, you wouldn't ask. You'd prepare yourself in the fear of God, who will bring every thought — and act into judgment, to be a right husband (or wife). You will desire to be a right example for others and your children." True love answers the advocates of permissive morality: "[It] is the will of God... that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel [ wife] in sanctification and honour, not in the lust of concupiscence [wrong sexual passions and abuses], even as the Gentiles [or anyone else] which know not God" (I Thessalonians 4:3-5).
More Than Human Strength Required
True love is, first, love toward God, the Creator, the author of every good gift. He offers human beings the fantastic opportunity to enter the Family of God. True love is then toward others. Love is respecting your own potential — and others' potential — as sons of God. Love is striving with God's mighty spiritual help to grow in maturity and wisdom. It is wanting to glorify God in your mind and body (I Corinthians 6:20). Love is helping and encouraging others, with a special emphasis on those called by God at this time (Galatians 6:10). Love is not casting stumblingblocks or aspersions before the weak in faith or the ignorant (Romans 14:13). The fulfillment of that kind of love is not possible by human strength alone. It requires God's Spirit flowing in human minds. But God's Spirit is given only to those willing to obey God (Acts 5:32). The receiving of God's Holy Spirit only comes after real repentance of one's sins, faith toward God, and water baptism (immersion) as a sign of one's burial of the old sinful ways. Then comes the lifelong process of growing spiritually and testing one's character and love. There will be many trials and difficulties in changing from your old selfish habits and ways (Acts 14:22). But by daily throwing yourself on God's mercy and power, the fruits of God's Spirit will increase: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness', goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23 RSV). True love is not, as so many believe today, "freedom to do your own thing." "[True] love is the fulfilling of the law" — God's immutable laws and great purpose for human life (Romans 13:10).
The Search Ends
Where is the love that will last after all the material riches, suffering and heartaches of this world perish? Here is perfect love: "If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no [godly] love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal. If I have the gift of foretelling the future and hold in my mind not only all human knowledge, but the very secrets of God, and if I also have that absolute faith which can move mountains, but have no love [that is, do not express love to others in lawful serving, helping and sharing], I amount to nothing at all. If I dispose of all that I possess, yes, even if I give my own body to be burned, but have no love, I achieve precisely nothing. "This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience — it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance. "Love has good manners and, does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not compile statistics of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when Truth prevails. "Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust [in God], no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.... "In this life we [true Christians] have three great lasting qualities — faith, hope and love. But the greatest of them is love" (I Corinthians 13, J. B. Phillips translation).