The Greatest of These Is... Love
Good News Magazine
January 1974
Volume: Vol XXIII, No. 1
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The Greatest of These Is... Love
Robert E Gentet  

Jesus warned that the end of this age would be characterized by a lack of love (Matt. 24:12). But you need not lack love. Now more than ever before the true meaning of Christian love needs to be understood and practiced. The Apostle John wrote: "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love" (I John 4:8). Read in this article how the Bible amplifies godly love.

   MODERN man is only beginning to fathom the awesome power of love in the human life cycle. Investigation has shown that love, or the lack of it, has a crucial relationship to criminal and delinquent behavior, marital happiness or unhappiness, and practically the entire gamut of psychological, spiritual and physical aspects of human beings.

Children Without Love

   Most essential is the love of parent for child. Ashley Montagu wrote a revealing book about the infants who entered hospitals and children's institutions between 1900 and 1920. Montagu discloses that a majority of these infants died! In fact, Dr. Henry Chapin's report concerning children under two years of age who were admitted to ten U. S. infant asylums laid bare the surprising fact that all but one of these infants died (The Humanization of Man [Cleveland: The World Publishing Co., 1962], p. 102).
   In the 1920s doctors began to see the need of motherly love for these institution infants. They must be shown by affection and care that they are loved. Nutrition and hygienic facilities are not enough.
   But the tragedy is not limited to those who actually die. Children without love — even if they survive infancy — grow up to be people with deep emotional problems.
   Has the situation improved today? In some institutions, perhaps. But alarmingly, the situation which existed in institutions in the early 1900s is extant today in families. Thousands of children each year are either killed or permanently injured by abuse in their homes. Dr. Vincent J. Fontana, a U. S. authority on child abuse, cites it as the main cause of death in young children.
   This tragic and shocking situation could be reversed if Christian love were practiced in the home. The degree to which we as individuals, as families, groups, or nations come to understand and apply the principles of Christian love in our lives is the same degree to which we can reap its rich rewards.
   As the Apostle Paul wrote: "And now abideth faith, hope, charity [love], these three; but the greatest of these is charity [love]" (I Cor. 13:13).

What Is Love?

   But what is love and how is it most effectively expressed?
   There is only one Source to which we can go with complete confidence to find out what love is and how it expresses itself. That is the Holy Bible. Scripture alone can give us the full and complete answers to our questions about love.
   "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous" (I John 5:2-3).
   Love and the Ten Commandments of God are inextricably intertwined. They simply cannot be separated.
   God's love for us is expressed by His giving us His commandments — because they are good for us. We profit by them — if we keep them and live by them. And we express our love for God in return by obedience to the right way of life He gives us. The commandments also express how to love our fellowman.
   The relationship between God's law and love for humanity was made plain by the Apostle Paul to the Christians at Rome: "Keep out of debt altogether, except that perpetual debt of love which we owe one another. The man who loves his neighbour has obeyed the whole Law in regard to his neighbour. For the commandments, 'Thou shalt not commit adultery', 'Thou shalt not kill', 'Thou shalt not steal', 'Thou shalt not covet' and all other commandments are summed up in this one saying: 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' Love hurts nobody: therefore love is the answer to the Law's commands" (Rom. 13:8-10, Phillips translation).
   If you love, you will automatically be fulfilling this part of the law. As you think about it, you will see for yourself how this is so.
   A person with a mind which is ruled by love would never think of murdering anyone. And how could he steal from those he loved? It would be preposterous to covet and love at the same time. Neither would he want to hurt others by telling lies about them. And it would be superfluous to beg a man who loves his wife not to commit adultery. And how could someone fail to ultimately honor his parents, if he truly loved them?
   Love is a creative, positive force for good. It greatly enriches the lives of both receiver and giver. It is — as Paid said — the lasting debt which we owe each other. It is the gift of which too much cannot be given.
   Christ called this love a new commandment: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another" (John 13:34). But it was also based on an old commandment (I John 2:7; 3:11). Long ago, it was recorded in the Old Testament: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself' (Lev. 19:18). Christ raised this Old Testament commandment to a new plane by His perfect example.
   Christ in no way annulled the "old" law of the Ten Commandments. He showed how the Ten Commandments should and must be kept. Love is the way by which the law may be kept completely, satisfyingly and richly — not merely in the letter but in the spirit (the intent and purpose of it) as well.

Love Has Two Main Facets

   It is possible to get a wrong idea about the law of God. This is perhaps best illustrated by the religious sect of Jesus' day called the Pharisees.
   The Pharisees taught such a servile adherence to the letter of the law that its higher meaning became lost from view. Christ put His finger on this key lack in the Pharisees' approach when He said:
   "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone" (Matt. 23:23).
   Christ recognized the higher meaning of the law and fully realized that the law consisted of much more than a list of "do's" and "don'ts" — the first facet of love. The other facet of love requires us to have certain character traits — to be a certain type of person. Here He specifically mentions we are to have judgment, mercy and faith. And judgment, mercy and faith are called the "weightier matters of the law."
   Quite clearly love consists of much more than mere law keeping. Christ's love — the type of love we should have — contains an abundance of judgment, mercy and faith. We — true Christians — are to love each other with His kind of love!
   Proper judgment is essential. Without judgment God's law very easily becomes bondage for those who strive to keep it. The Pharisees had made the Sabbath, for example, a burden to the people because they were unable to properly judge the intent of the Sabbath commandment (Matt. 12:1-8).
   Without mercy we can have no hope. As God has been merciful to us, we should also be merciful to others.
   "For he shall have judgment without mercy," wrote James, "that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoices against judgment" (James 2:13).
   And Jesus said: "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Matt. 9:13).
   Faith also has its important part in Christian love. Without faith, we will become haughty and proud. The Pharisees, an example again, were proud that they were not like other men (Luke 18:10-14). They did not see the need for a Saviour because their minds were fixed on what they had achieved through their keeping of the law (Rom. 9:32).

The Important Qualities of Love

   There are other ingredients to this second facet of love. Taken all together, they round out the "do" and "don't" portion of the law.
   Paul gets to the very heart of this aspect of the law in his famous "love chapter" — I Corinthians 13. Here he takes love and puts it through a prism to break it down and show us each of its individual brilliant colors so we may clearly comprehend what composes it.
   These virtues which Paul expounds do not take the place of the law: they balance out the law and show us how true keeping of the law should be expressed.
   The spectrum of love includes these ingredients:
   Patience: "Love suffereth long."
   Kindness: "And is kind."
   Generosity: "Love envieth not."
   Humility: "Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up."
   Courtesy: "Doth not behave itself unseemly."
   Unselfishness: "Seeketh not her own."
   Even-temperedness: "Is not easily provoked. "
   Guilessness: "Thinketh no evil."
   Discernment: "Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth."
   Each of these virtues is important and deserves further elaboration.
Love suffers long: love has the quality of patience. Ever been in a traffic jam? Has your child ever seemed to do something too slowly? Did your mate ever forget to do an errand for you? We can alleviate many problems in all these small happenings in our everyday lives if we learn and show patience. And then how much more patience we will have for the really trying events in our lives! Patience is the virtue needed when things go wrong. It allows us to continue on — confident that more time will improve the situation. This is how God is so extremely patient with our shortcomings. Love understands, and therefore waits. But the "longsuffering" of love also means just that. It is more than just patience. We may actually have to suffer — while continuing to be patient — to show love.
Love is kind. Kindness is a response to the needs in the life of another person. Much of Christ's life was spent in doing good to others. He was constantly concerned about others; and He helped them
Most essential is love between parent and child.
through acts of healing, feeding, and comforting. "When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them... " (Matt. 9:36). He saw the needs of the people and sought to fill them.
   Someone once said: "The greatest thing a man can do for his Heavenly Father is to be kind to some of His other children." It is a biblical principle. Christ Himself expressed it this way: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40).
   Kindness requires the ability to identify with the needs of another. Place yourself in his shoes. It also means getting involved, which sometimes requires much courage. But the Good Samaritan attitude will payoff. Compassion has tremendous healing power. It can transform the world.
Love does not envy. How much strife could be eliminated if more people possessed this aspect of love! The non-envying spirit allows the other person to carry on his good work. The New Testament shows how Christ and the apostles were highly envied by the religious leaders of their day (Matt. 27:18; Acts 13:45). Those leaders constantly opposed the work of the early Church for that reason.
   In contrast to this, God wants us to be generous toward others. Instead of competition and strife, love allows others to do their best.
Love does not brag, is not puffed up. Love carries on its work with humility. It does not blow a trumpet before its good deeds or actions. Humility balances off the natural tendency to overemphasize the self. Humility is not a sign of weakness but of strength. It takes strength of character to overcome vanity, arrogance and haughtiness. Humility tempers the influence of love and makes it genuine. As J. B. Phillips renders this portion of I Corinthians 13: "It is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance."
Love does not behave itself unseemly. "Unseemly" means "without good manners." Courtesy is a distinct part of love. Here, love has a relationship to etiquette.
   We live in an age where many men and women have forgotten — or never learned — how to behave in a fitting manner. A gentleman with love does things gently. For women this aspect of love includes modesty.
Love seeks not her own. Love is not self-seeking. It does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not selfishly motivated.
   It's the "give," not the "get" philosophy. It seeks to serve — not to be served. It does not get upset if another fails — or refuses — to join in giving as one thinks he should. Love simply motivates one to give of oneself, of one's time, to others, without demanding that others do the same. Unless love is motivated with the other person in mind, it is empty and hollow.
   If parents would give more of themselves and their time to their children, juvenile problems would diminish. Unselfish love between husbands and wives would produce the right kind of marriages.
Love is not easily provoked, or, as Phillips renders it, is not "touchy."
   It is good and right to be angry at evil and there is also a rare time and place for righteous indignation (Eph. 4:26). But the wrong type of temper is due to an unloving nature. The symptom of anger reveals much about an individual. Ill-temperedness is an outward sign of an inward problem.
   This sensitivity test for love reveals how much patience, kindness, generosity, courtesy and unselfishness are locked up on the inside. In order to conquer a bad temper, the inside character — the source — must be changed.
Love thinks no evil — that is, it is not forever acting unbearably suspicious, nor does it keep an account of the evil of others. It allows for mistakes — and forgives them.
   The possession of love gives one personal influence. If you will think about it, the people who influence you the most are those who believe in you. Love stimulates by an atmosphere of growth instead of one of suspicion and distrust.
   This does not mean that love condones or approves of wrongdoing, but rather that it properly separates the sin and the sinner, and does not condemn the one with the other.
Finally, love does not rejoice in sin or in condemning others for sin, but rejoices in the truth. Love sees that the only real happiness comes from living the right way, but it does not gloat over the wickedness of others. It is never glad when others go wrong, but neither is it fooled by false ways or ideas. Love delights in the truth and joyfully sides with it. It sticks with it. It endures forever.

All-Important Love

   Love represents the most important experience in the life of an individual. Whether a youth, an adult, a family or a nation is involved, love governs the success of any endeavor. There can be no true and lasting success without the many vital ingredients of love.
   But human love by itself lacks completeness. It is distinctly limited in its scope and understanding. What is needed is divine love which comes through the action of the Spirit of God. "... Because the love of God is shed abroad by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us" (Rom. 5:5).
   God will give His Holy Spirit to those willing to obey Him (Acts 5:32). He is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to us than we are to give good gifts to our children (Luke 11:13).
   But we must be willing to live God's way — all the way! We must be willing to love others "as he loved us." This divine love, then, comes through true conversion.
   True conversion is not a selfish experience. It is the exact opposite. Conversion allows one to express all the ingredients of love in the fullest way. Conversion is a matter of learning to love God's way. Then our human minds can be motivated by Christ and the Father's love living in us.
   By giving ourselves totally to God (which means all He stands for), we can totally give ourselves to our fellowman. Without this prior commitment to God, we cannot know how to truly serve man in every respect; for through knowledge of God is knowledge of how to love others

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Good News MagazineJanuary 1974Vol XXIII, No. 1