omething I was raised with, at least 20 years with, was the Anti-Economy-Of-Love philosophy. Never never, Ever ever, no matter what, trade somebody for love. You can’t say “If you love me, you’ll…(do this)”
John 14:15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
Proverbs 8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.
John 21:17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
John 14:23-24 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”
Right. I’m not tossing into the trash the notion that there is no emotional involvement in a love relationship. That would be silly. But there is a call here to produce. God enables our love and empowers our love for him and for others when he calls us to repentance and salvation. True Love is a product and authentication of our salvation.
My point is this, which has been made over and over and it seems still to be very unpopular. Get this: All the advice I’ve heard from Biblical sources regarding loving someone (and I’ve called on a bunch of ‘em over the years), says about the same thing: I have to act in love. Moreover, I’m led to act in love, by God. It’s not a natural thing that just sort of happens and is absolutely not instinctive. It’s a led-by-the-nose activity, and it’s moment by moment, action by action. Yes, it’s spiritual and it’s emotional too, but I can feel all day long and it’s not gonna get me anywhere.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Lemme try this from my perspective at home: If I kiss my Wife that is acting in love. If I get hotheaded and blow up at my Wife that is a product of hate (since I’m in Christ, a product of the hateful, unloving old man, the flesh). Any doubters on that? If I sit around all day mooning over deep thoughts of love for my Wife and do nothing else, what does that get me? Normally that produces an irate Wife who wanted the dishes done.
I must to do those things. NOW, when I do kiss my wife (or help her or say good things to her), my feelings of love are built up. It’s an exercise and the good results, God’s blessing of my good works, are an improvement in the environment around me, in love and my ability to love. When I think of her in a loving way, the practice of love must coincide. I don’t feel love and then completely fail to act on it. The same is true with my good works in other situations. All good works (all in love) are a product of and for God, his glory! That is why he says “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Before we are in Christ, it is possible to do “good” things, however they are not acceptable to God since they are not good things for him. The good that a non-believer does may be noble or kind or morally right, but it is not spiritually or faithfully right. We have not love therefore we are not in him and we cannot do for God or men what he calls us to do. We are demonstrably unable to love prior to God’s intervention in our lives as our Savior.
“Well, he is totally incapable in the sense that all his actions are defective, good though they may be in many ways, because they are not prompted by a love of God, and by a concern for the will and glory of God” – Great Doctrines of the Bible By Martyn Lloyd-Jones p-208 (© 2003 by Bethan Lloyd-Jones)
Another point in the Bible: God is love.
1 John 4:8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
It doesn’t say anywhere that man is love. God calls man to love him but doesn’t give one way to do so other than to keep his commandments. Since it’s shown elsewhere that we are incapable of loving him (or anybody else) on our own, there’s no other way to look at this. We can’t love without God; we must love if we are in Christ. As sinners saved by Grace, we still are not “automatic” in our authentication of love. This is always a process of change for a Christian, since we’re being sanctified and will be glorified in the end, which should return us to our former state of love between us and the Father.
Now, on this idea that Man cannot love: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/qna/freewill.html
This article on free will outlines how incapable of goodness, including love (the highest goodness) man is. Calvin is quoted therein:
“We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil.”
There’s no reason to think that we can do so without God’s intervention which only starts at salvation. There’s no reason I can see that we immediately become not just capable of love, but actually loving, when we are saved. Capable, yes, loving, no. I believe I am convinced that our choices to love, enabled by God, cultivate the spiritual and emotional sort of love that we desire.
The definitive (for me) passage on love is in 1st John 4:7-12
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
We authenticate love in action. It’s an if-then statement as well. Authentication is the same as proof. We prove our love by our deeds, by our way of life, not by just saying we love.
Therefore, to teach someone how to love, and this brings us right back to the beginning and my original point, we teach the economy.
If you love me: do this. I love you: I do this. I can’t possibly say I love you if I don’t act on it. You can’t possibly love me if you don’t act on it.
God does and proves it.
Now, we’ve been told to control our emotions, that “gut feelings” and sentimentality are not the way to interpret the Bible or determine God’s will for our lives. I believe that this “Love is an action” idea fits in right here.
Upon my salvation, God set in me the path to loving him which was John 14:15. I was set to keep his commandments, which are mobius strips of love and obedience to him and my fellow man. If I did what he said, which he has made me to do, which I have consequently chosen to do, I will show my love for him, and therefore I will want to do more and therefore love more and so on. Practice makes perfect.
I have really hard times determining how to love and how to tell others how to love. I have a tough time with my kids especially. I even have trouble understanding the right way to love and encourage love in my Wife. This long, tangled thought process is making sense to me in light of my practical experience with love in my life. There must be a call to act out love. I need to both do loving things for my family and teach them the point and value of doing loving. Love isn’t a vague, intangible as the romantics make it out to be (and I ought to know, being one). Love is very tangible. It’s not just a choice, it’s a mandatory doing of good works as found in the Word.
And God’s word seems to provide all the evidence for it. Here are some more passages:
Colossians 3:19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
Exodus 20:4-6 You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
God shows love in many cases and it’s just not some feeling we get, it’s a fact we receive every time. He gave his son in payment for the debt we could not pay. He called out Israel though Israel had no lovable qualities. He provides common grace which goes even further than restraining his judgment and wiping the slate clean right now. Common grace allows people to find joy and sweetness in a cursed world with their cursed minds and bodies. Common grace keeps cursed people from reaching the full potential of their curse during the course of their lives.
Tim Challies’ book, “The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment” in chapter 3 confirms my thoughts as well. He clarifies that Discernment is not some sort of mystical Gift. It can certainly be a Spiritual Gift, meaning a God-given talent for being really good at discerning, but he is clear that none of us are going to be discerning at all if we don’t practice and study and pray and do all the other things required of us. Though God is the foundation, motivation and guiding factor of our ability to discern, we get there via the work in and application of the Word and with the Holy Spirit’s direction. The same is true of love. We all get love; we all need to act out love, and sometimes God puts among us one who is really excellent in their capability of love. Nonetheless, there’s work involved in developing a loving character. I’ll play my favorite tune again real quick:
Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect
We know that the reference to renewing our minds is not some eastern meditation thing but that literal study, application and meditation on the Word, prayer and fellowship with the brethren. It’s an instruction we have, not a state of being when Paul says “Do not be,” and “be.”
This makes it hard to be discerning without work. Same thing in loving.