What is Love?

love

Dictionary.com defines love as “a passionate affection for another person.” But then again, Dictionary.com also believes that boys can turn into girls, so they’re probably not the best source for getting an accurate (let alone biblical) definition of love.

And it’s incredibly important for us to understand what love is. After all, we are repeatedly commanded by Jesus to love:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 25:37-39, Mark 12:30-31, Luke 10:27)

Jesus reiterates this commandment in His final discourse:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)

Heck, God goes as far as to say that He is love:

“We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)

So, what is love? Is it a feeling? Is it being nice? Is it an open door, or a battlefield, or a drug?

According to the bible, love is obedience to God’s commandments:

“If you love Me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.” (John 14:21)

“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 burdensome.” (1 John 5:2-3)

This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in them.” (2 John 6)

In any given situation, the most loving thing you can do is the thing God has told you to do. No wonder God gave us these wonderful commandments. It wasn’t just to keep us in line; it was to keep us in love, and as long as we obey His laws, we can be certain that we will be walking in love*.


Notes:

* Some readers might deny this biblical definition of love, citing the Pharisees as a counter-example. After all, the Pharisees supposedly kept the law, and yet would not be considered very loving by Jesus’ standards. In actuality, the Pharisees didn’t keep the law—at least they didn’t keep the whole law. Sure, they kept some of it, but they also rejected a whole lot of it (Matthew 23:23, Mark 7:8-13). Obeying a few commandments while intentionally ignoring the rest isn’t true obedience, and thus isn’t love.

Tell Someone that God is the Healer

woman.jpg

Mark 5 recounts the tale of the “Woman with the Issue of Blood.” We are told that she had some unspecified medical condition, described “a flow of blood for twelve years” (Mark 5:25). She had spent all the money she had to visit the best doctors money could buy, but only grew worse.

Finally, when she heard about Jesus, she declared in faith, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well” (Mark 5:28). Sure enough, she gets exactly what she said: As she reaches out to touch the men of his garment, she was immediately healed, and Jesus commends her for her faith, saying “Your faith has made you well” (Mark 5:34).

Much could be said about this story: her faith, her words, her salvation (the same word used to describe our salvation is used by Jesus to describe her healing). But there is one verse in this story that is oft overlooked.

When she heard about Jesus…” (Mark 5:27)

This woman was ritualistically unclean. She had a rather unpleasant ailment, and would have been an outcast of society, rarely leaving the comfort of her home. And yet, she somehow inexplicably heard about Jesus.

How?

Someone left his comfort zone to tell this diseased and destitute woman about the long-awaited Messiah.

We know nothing of this mysterious someone. He (or she) isn’t even mentioned directly in this passage. But this someone is the hero of the tale. For if someone hadn’t delivered the message, this woman wouldn’t have been healed, this chapter wouldn’t have been written, and countless believers wouldn’t have been blessed by this story of faith and salvation.

We need more someone’s in the church today. We need men and women who are willing to visit people like this woman, people who aren’t welcome in society, people who aren’t visited, people who frankly smell bad or look unseemly or aren’t a joy to be around.

We need believers like the four friends of the paralytic, who, refusing to take “no” for an answer, stormed Jesus’ house with their crippled friend in tow, going so far as to bust a hole in the roof of a stranger to get their friend to Jesus (Mark 2:1-4).

Too many sick people are more like the 38-year paralyzed man in John 5:

“Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.” (John 5:7)

It might be unpleasant. It will be inconvenient. But it’s necessary. And it’s our call as followers of Christ:

“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14)

So next time you see someone with a runny nose, or a broken leg or an incurable blood disease, tell them about our Healer. Tell them about our Great Physician. Tell them about the God who does all things well. How else will they be saved?

Encouragement from Genesis

abe

I recently reread the book of Genesis with several teenagers from the church. While discussing it, the most common thing the students brought up was all the weird and terrible things the main characters kept doing:

  • Abraham lies about his wife being his sister, and she is almost swept into Pharaoh’s harem
  • Lot, while inebriated, impregnates both of his daughters
  • Judah sleeps with (who he assumes is) a prostitute, then tries to have her executed
  • Jacob deceives his father to steal from his brother, then spends twenty years running from God
  • Isaac, like his father, practically sells his wife into an enemy king’s harem to save his own skin

And that’s not the half of it! From cowardice and theft to sexual deviance and murder, they were guilty of it all.

But here’s the beautiful thing… God still blesses them!

Despite their sin, despite their selfishness, despite it all, they are still God’s people.

Why?

Because God made a promise. God promised some idol worshipper named Abram that if he forsook his previous life and followed after the one true God, that God would bless Abram and all his descendants after him (Genesis 12:1-3). And Abram, while certainly not perfect, followed God (Genesis 12:4). Abram, though he occasionally faltered, believed what God had said (Genesis 15:6). And God kept His promise.

And an entire family, an entire people, an entire nation was blessed because of it.

And the Lord said, “I will be with you and bless you. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven. And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed My voice.” (Genesis 26:2-5)

There are two lessons to learn from this:

  1. You are blessed because God made a promise.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably not perfect. You make mistakes. You slip up. But guess what? In spite of all that, God will still bless you. Why? Because of someone else’s faithfulness.

If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:29)

  1. The choices you make will bless your family for generations to come.

Over four thousand years ago, some guy in the desert listened to God, and God blessed him. His wife didn’t always listen to God, but God blessed her because anyway. His kids didn’t usually listen to God, but God blessed them anyway. His nephew didn’t listen to God, but God blessed them anyway. His grandkids and great-grandkids ran from God and disobeyed Him, but God blessed them anyway. And four thousand years later, a world that largely ignores God is still being blessed by Him. All because of a promise God made:

In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:3)

Your obedience affects those around you. Your faithfulness will transcend your short time on earth. So don’t just live for yourself. Live for your family. Live for your community. Live for the generations that are yet to come. They are counting on you.

BIBLICAL ECONOMICS: God Cares about the Poor

There is much conversation today about poverty. From politics to the pulpit, from backyard talks around the barbeque to internet debates on Twitter, everyone has something to say about the poor. But what does God say about the poor?

The bible makes it clear that God cares for the poor. We are told throughout scripture that God:

  • defends the needy (1 Samuel 2:8, Psalm 12:5)
  • is a refuge for the poor (Psalm 14:6, Isaiah 25:4)
  • saves and rescues the poor from destruction (Psalm 35:10, Psalm 72:4, 12-13, Psalm 109:31, Jeremiah 20:13)
  • listens to the prayers of the impoverished (Psalm 34:6, Psalm 69:33)
  • promises to help the needy (Psalm 69:32, Isaiah 14:30, Isaiah 41:17)
  • and lifts the poor up close to Himself (Psalm 113:7, Psalm 140:12, Psalm 146:7)

Not only does God care about the poor, but He commands us to care for the poor as well. We are commanded:

  • not to exploit or take advantage of the poor (Deuteronomy 24:14, Proverbs 22:22)
  • not to deny or pervert justice towards the poor (Exodus 23:6, Leviticus 19:15)
  • to be kind to the needy (Proverbs 14:21, Proverbs 14:31, Proverbs 19:17)
  • not to oppress the poor (Proverbs 22:16, Proverbs 28:3, Zechariah 7:10)
  • to share with the poor (Leviticus 19:10, Proverbs 22:9)
  • not to mock the poor (Proverbs 17:5)
  • to speak up for the poor (Proverbs 31:9)
  • to consider the poor (Proverbs 29:7)
  • And to listen to the poor (Proverbs 21:13)

Furthermore, Jesus cared for the poor, and commanded His followers to do the same:

  • Jesus first announced His ministry with the claim that He was anointed to “preach the gospel to the poor” (Luke 4:18)
  • He regularly told His followers to give to the poor (Mark 10:21, Luke 6:38, Luke 12:33)
  • He was so charitable to the poor that when one of His followers left a room, it was assumed they were going to give to the poor (John 13:29)
  • He told His followers to make sure to spend time with the poor and invite them to fellowship together (Luke 14:13)
  • Part of His ministry was preaching the gospel specifically to the poor (Matthew 11:5)
  • Jesus famously told His disciples to feed the hungry and thirsty, clothe the naked, and take in the stranger, claiming that caring for the “least of these” was caring for Jesus Himself (Matthew 25:34-40)

Jesus’ followers took these commands to heart:

  • Paul wrote that Christians should be hospitable and charitable to those in need (Romans 12:13, 2 Corinthians 9:7)
  • John wrote that caring for others in need was evidence that a believer was filled with the love of God (1 John 3:17)
  • In their respective ministries, both Peter and Paul were eager to remember the poor, and encouraged each other to do so (Galatians 2:10)

From the Old Testament to the New, it is evident that God cares for and helps the poor, and that He expects His followers to do the same. But a few questions arise:

How are we to help the poor?

What are the causes of poverty?

We will examine these questions related to the biblical view of poverty in a series of future articles, BIBLICAL ECONOMICS.

charity-poor