Thursday, February 5, 2015

Is It True That All We Need is Love? Should Christians Be More Tolerant? How Should We Love Others?

All You Need Is Love. That's the name of a famous song by the Beatles. Today in the Church this is the message that is being taught. And it is a good one, as far as it goes. Christ told us that we should love God first and foremost and love our neighbor as ourselves. Matthew 22:37-40 “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”1 Corinthians 13 is known as the Love Chapter. In verse 13 it says, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (love).”

One of the things that Christ said would be missing from the Church before His return was love. Matthew 25:12 “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” In the letter to the church at Ephesus, Christ says this, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” It is important that the Church preach that we love each other and our neighbors, because the Church is sadly lacking in love. But in talking to people, and listening to some pastors, I have discovered that what people are calling “love” is not necessarily what God means by “love.”Often what is meant is simply "tolerance."

When asking people what they view as love, the following definitions come up. 1) Accepting people as they are and not judging them (and vice versa, having people accept you for who you are 2) It is a beautiful and unique feeling 3) God is love 4) acts of kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice 5) pulls you out of your comfort zone and makes you do things you wouldn't normally do 6) a mystery that can only be experienced, not defined 7) it's up to you 8) understanding someone else and sharing their dreams 9) to provide and protect 10) never having to say you're sorry 11) when you care about another person as much as you care about yourself 12) a deep feeling of sexual desire or physical attraction 13) finding someone who makes you feel good and fills your needs 14) nature's way of tricking people into reproducing 15) commitment.

So these are the ideas people have as to what love is. But is this God's definition of love? English is a poor language in some ways. We have one word for love that means everything from love for family, to friends, to sexual attraction, to being “in love.” Greek, at least the Greek of the Bible has several different words for love. The lowest form would be Eros. Eros is sexual desire or romantic love. We use the word erotic, which is derived from the word “eros.” As romantic love generally has sexual overtones to it, romantic love falls into this category. The next love is phileo. It is a brotherly type of love (hence Phila-delphia the city of brotherly love). Its basis is our natural tastes and preferences. We choose friends that enjoy the things we enjoy or like the things we like, who have similar lifestyles, backgrounds, etc. It does not have to be a shallow love, just because it has a basis in your preferences or tastes, as you can love your friends very dearly. The depth of the love is dependent upon the depth of the person's character from whom it comes. Storge is best defined as the kind of love you feel for your family or those you view as family, such as the kind you feel for a best friend. It tends to be a more committed love than eros or phileo, and does not have sexual overtones.

The last type of love is agape love. Agape love is unconditional love. It is a love that is made by a choice of the will, not necessarily out of feelings. It surpasses mere feelings, so you can agape someone when you do not like what they are doing or possibly do not even like them personality-wise. This is possible simply because it is a choice of the will. It is a sacrificial love. Agape love does not seek to please itself, but desires the best for the object of that love, even at the sacrifice of self. The best definition comes from 1 Corinthians 13, because this is the kind of love that God has, and the kind we are expected as Christians to have for others. To put their welfare above our own.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity (love), I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteer me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity”

So how does God define love? Love long as it has to. It endures hardship and pain. Love is kind. It treats everyone with kindness. Love does not envy others. It is not jealous of others or want what they have. Love does not vaunt itself or get puffed up. It is not boastful, arrogant, prideful, or conceited. Love does not behave unseemly. It does not do things which are wrong, or even just ill-mannered. It doesn't commit sinful acts against others or even deliberately do things to annoy or offend others. Love does not seek its own way. It puts others first before self. It doesn't insist on having things its own way and is not selfish. Love is not easily provoked. It does not let others make it angry, no matter how much they may try to do so. It overlooks things and refuses to react in like manner. Love thinks no evil. It does not think the worst of others automatically. It does not dwell on evil thoughts of any kind. It keeps its mind pure. Love does not find joy in the sins or unfortunate happenings in others' lives. Love loves the truth. It finds great joy in it. Love bears everything without losing hope, faith, or patience. Love believes in God and that with God all things are possible. Love hopes for the best no matter the circumstances. Love endures to the end. Love never fails, but hangs tough through it all. And mainly, love is something that gives without looking for something in return. Most loves expect to receive love back in return and often will not endure unless the love is returned. Agape love will give love whether or not it is returned.

Christ told us to love God and our neighbors. These two commandments are a condensed version of the Ten Commandments, for those Ten tell us how to love God and others, or if you prefer, how not to behave, if we do not want to sin against God and man, for they are there to show us our sin. The first four tell us how to love God. The last six tell us how to love others. These commandments are the testimony of God that were kept in the ark of the covenant or ark of the testimony, as it is actually called in the Bible. They are eternal, for God's standard of holiness is eternal. God cannot tolerate sin, so these behaviors will interfere with our relationship with God. Many believe they were given first to Moses, but they were known from the beginning as were other laws and statutes. We are told that Abraham knew them. Genesis 26:5 “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” Abel and the other patriarchs knew about sacrifices and made them to God. They were not first instituted with Moses. Noah knew about clean and unclean animals. It was not a new things with Moses. Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizadek (not of his own possessions, but of the booty he brought back from war, yet still he tithed from that booty.) Tithing was not first a concept taught to Moses. And the Sabbath was instituted in the creation week and was observed by the followers of God who knew these statutes, commandments, and laws as Abraham did. The Israelites were told to remember the Sabbath. They had forgotten it in the four hundred years of slavery, as they were not allowed to observe it. But they had known about it from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So we have the Ten Commandments which show us how our love for God and neighbor should be manifesting itself in action. These are not for Israel alone. They existed before Israel and they continue to exist as Christ told us that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments, which build on the Ten Commandments by addressing our heart condition, as well as our actions. For example, beyond not murdering, we are not to hate. Beyond adultery, we are not to look upon someone with lust. But as we are dealing with the actions of love, which stem from the state of the heart, we will start with the Ten Commandments for now, as if you find you are breaking them regularly as a matter of course, it is evidence that you have a heart problem in your relationship with God, and if that exists, you are not really able to love either God or man.

Before continuing further, I want to make it very clear that I am not saying that we should be striving to obey the Ten Commandments to earn our way to heaven or special favors from God. Although certainly God is much happier with us as children and feels more loved, if we are in obedience to Him, just as being parents we feel our children love us, and we are happier with them, if they obey our rules. I feel the need to state this as there are those who feel any adherence to these Commandments is to nullify Christ's death on the cross. It is only doing that if you are counting on obedience to get you anything except to be a manifestation of the state of your heart. If you see you are not keeping the Commandments (simply because you feel a desire to want to live that way), and you are not being convicted about the situation, it is a good indication that you have a problem in your relationship with God. If you find you have to work at keeping them, instead of the behavior coming naturally to you, it is questionable that you have the Holy Spirit indwelling you, for His indwelling should work upon you to put the desire to act in accordance with keeping these commandments without having to strive to do so. Also, keeping these commandments (from a natural desire) does tend to bring blessings with it. Obedience to God is always the better life choice and better life choices naturally bring blessings with them. That said, let us take a look at these Commandments to see how love as defined by God should be manifesting itself.

Exodus 20:3-17
  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
  4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
  5. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
  6. Thou shalt not kill.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  8. Thou shalt not steal.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

These commandments cover, in general, the ways in which we should be manifesting our love for God and neighbor. First we should not have any other god before God. That does not just mean some pagan god. That means anything which becomes our focus in life. Money, fame, sex, a person, anything that becomes the premier focus of our life instead of God becomes our god and ends up making God less than first in our life. If we put anything before God, how can we say that we love Him?

The second commandment is that we should not make and worship any graven image as a representation of God or any other object of worship. We should not bow down or pray to any physical object, but worship God only in spirit and in truth. John 4:23-24 “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” If we bow down and worship or pray to any physical object, then we no longer worship God, we worship that object. How then can we say that we love God?

The third commandment tells us that we should not take the name of the Lord in vain. Some people think this merely means swearing using Jesus' name or using the phrase in which people ask God to damn something. While God is not God's actual name, we use it as if it were at times, so we should not be throwing the names of God (Yahweh, Jehovah, Lord, etc.) or even the word “God” around in an empty, useless way. To ask God to damn something is to ask God to bring eternal judgment down upon them. That is not necessarily a breaking of the commandment, if you are serious about it. For instance, to ask for something that is a blasphemy to God be sent to perdition is not a bad thing. Equally God can be trivialized when people go around saying “God bless” or “praise the Lord” when it is just a habitual phrase one throws around to look pious. This is treating God equally with triviality and emptiness, as to ask Him to damn something. We are not to throw God's name around as some do when they say, “God wants you to send me money and He will bless you.” God does not want you using His name as an authority when He has not given the message you are relating. That is using God's name in vain just as a curse is. And just for clarity, vulgar language is not necessarily breaking the third commandment, however, we are told to make sure that our speech is tempered with grace.

Proverbs 10:32 “The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.”

Colossi ans 3:8 “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.”
Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

If someone says they love you, then uses your name to curse out others or in a way which shows that they do not hold a lot of respect or reverence for it, would you think they loved you? Probably not. God is no different. If we love Him, we will not use His name in a vain, empty way.

The fourth commandment is one of great controversy. As such it is an article in itself. I have already written on this subject and it can be found in my archives.

If we love God, will we not treat the day He has established from the very beginning of time as being a holy day, in a holy way as He has asked us to do so? In fact, it is a gift, a blessing, and to observe it will enhance your life, not burden it. If we do not treat it differently, are we not treating Him with the greatest disrespect, since He established this day at creation? He did not ask us to treat as holy every first day of the week due to the fact that His Son rose from the dead on that day. He asked us to keep the seventh day of the week holy because He rested on that day and made it holy. He did this at the beginning of time, not just when He reminded Moses and the Israelites to remember that it had been meant to be kept that way right from the first week. He created this day for man, so that man might have time to rest from his labors and spend time with God. He did not create man for the day. Mark 2:27-28 “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” Notice that Christ said He is LORD of the Sabbath. So the Sabbath is important to Him. What Christ was saying was not that He was going to do away with the Sabbath, but that He was going to relieve them of the burdens that the Pharisees had placed upon them on how to observe it. It was not made so that they could have a list of things to do or not do. It was made for them to have a day of rest when they could spend time with God and not have to worry about doing the daily chores that every other day held. 

Just as Christ told Martha that Mary chose the better part, because she chose to sit at His feet rather than get the meal, He was letting them know that He was freeing them to observe and enjoy the Sabbath. The Sabbath is not a list of do's and don'ts. It is a day to rejoice and rest. A blessing for which we can thank God. There is nothing wrong with going to church on Sunday and worshiping God on that day too, but that does not negate the fact that the Sabbath was created for man, for all men, not just the Israelites, and it should be observed as a manifestation of our love for God. For it is a gift from Him and to refuse such a great gift is just plain rude. Personally I love the fact that I have a legitimate excuse to not have to do work on that day. On Sunday I used to go to church and sit at a piano and play for the service. I worked. I had a choral rehearsal before church. I worked. I played at an evening service. I worked. Where was my day of rest in the week? It didn't exist, until I started observing the Sabbath. I LOVE the Sabbath. And I love God for giving it to me. I have a day when I do not have to work, nor do I have to feel guilty for not doing work, nor justify my taking a day off from work. I get to spend the day studying God's Word and praying, and enjoying my family or friends, and resting from my labors, all guilt free. That's the freedom Christ gave us. I think the Sabbath is the best thing ever. What is wrong with you people who do not want to observe it? Are you crazy? Why would you turn down such a great gift? That is like turning down a paid vacation. Imagine how the person who paid for it and gave it to you feels when you treat it as non-existent? That is why observing it is showing God your love. It is showing your gratitude by enjoying the gift.

Those are some of the ways in which we should be showing our love for God. To show our love to our neighbors we have been given more commandments. First we start with the very first people in our lives, our parents. We are to honor them. This means to love and obey them, to treat them with respect, and to care for them when they are old. If we do so, we are promised a long life. So this commandment comes with a promise. These are the first people we will love in life. And to show them our love, we need to honor them. We know that this commandment is still in effect, for we are again told to do this in the New Testament. So these rules are not null and void as some would teach. They are still very much in effect. Ephesians 6:1-3 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”

Next we are told not to kill. Some people believe this means that you must never take another human life. But we know from Scripture that God ordered His people to take many a life. Sometimes in battle and sometimes as a punishment for sin. So what does this mean? What this means is that you are not to murder another human. Murder is an act of violence against another human for personal reasons. It is not in warfare, it is not to execute just punishment for a crime. It is a personal vendetta. God even made provisions for accidental deaths. It is just the taking of a person made in the image of God in this way that is a breaking of His law. This commandment has nothing to do with the animal world. Love does not manifest itself in the action of murder. I think that is pretty obvious.

We are not to commit adultery. In this case I don't believe it is just referring to a married person cheating on their spouse. This is talking about sexual impurity. If we believe that God has prepared a mate for us, then to fornicate with someone before marriage would be to cheat on the intended spouse. To have relations with the same sex, would be to cheat on the intended spouse (not to mention that God finds it an abomination). To have sex with animals would be to cheat on the intended or present spouse (again an abomination). So any sexual relations outside of the marriage to the intended spouse is adultery. Sexual purity is the only acceptable practice. If you love someone, you will not commit sexual impurity against them.

We are not to steal. Stealing is taking what does not belong to you. It is wrong and is a crime and sin against your neighbor. To take what is theirs is in essence to take a part of that person. Often theft is accompanied by an attack against the person who is being robbed. Obviously this is not showing love if you do it. While we think of theft as merely stealing physical objects, stealing can also refer to stealing reputations, stealing away someone's love, stealing ideas for profit, etc. There are all kinds of theft.

Bearing false witness can be carried out in several ways. You can lie about someone when they are accused of something, or you can create rumors and gossip about them. No matter how it is done, false witness will carry the consequence of ruining someone's reputation and assassinate their character. In a way it is another form of murder. Murder of the person's character and reputation. This can be as devastating as death in some cases. In some cases it has driven people to take their own lives when false witnesses are believed. If you want to love your neighbor, you won't bear false witness against them.

Lastly we have coveting. Coveting is not only envying what someone has, but wanting it for yourself. We are not to covet any person or thing that belongs to our neighbor. It is envy and jealousy, and these two emotions can make someone act in a very bad way toward an innocent person. People will even murder over covetousness. Again, we come back to murder. It is amazing how often these other sins come back to murder as the final result. People murder because they covet someone's spouse (adultery) their belongings (stealing) or because false witness has destroyed their lives. If we love our neighbor, we will never do any of these things to them. The ways in which we interact with our neighbors will fall into these categories in some way or another. So they are a general and basic outline for how to show love to our neighbor. For those who say these commandments are not applicable anymore, think again. When we were told we are no longer under the law, it did not mean that we shouldn't live by these rules. It meant we are no longer under the penalty of the law, the condemnation or consequences or punishment of the law. Christ took those upon Himself when He died for us. We are however to have the law written upon our hearts (which is more incumbent upon us than just having them written in the Bible). Jeremiah 31:33 “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” God's commandments should not be tossed aside as no longer relevant, in fact these commandments are supposedly engraved upon our heart. If they are so engraved on our heart, should we not then be observing them? The Holy Spirit makes it so that we can observe these commandments, as we now have the love of God within us to carry them out. Something Israel did not have. They were under the condemnation of the law, because there was no sacrifice great enough to take it away. We are no longer under the condemnation, but now have that law written on our hearts. As such we should be showing our love in the way that is described in them.

There are other things no doubt that can be included in this list, but as said above, these general categories probably cover any other ones that might be mentioned. For instance, judging someone without due diligence might fall under the category of bearing false witness.

Now Christ took these things to the next level. He addressed the state of our mind and heart. We are not only not to murder, we are not to hate for that is the same as murder. We are not only not to commit adultery, we are not to lust in our heart. As sin starts in the heart and mind and then manifests in actions, we are to guard our hearts and minds as well as our actions.

In conjunction with this list is how we carry them out. In obedience. Obedience is more important to God than most anything else.

1 Samuel 15:22 “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”

Romans 6:26 “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”

Hebrews 5:8-9 “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;”

1 Peter 1:22 “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:”

1 Peter 4:7 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” If our judgment is going to be based upon our obedience to the gospel of God, then obedience is pretty important in showing God our love.

Besides showing love in the above ways, we also have some tangible aspects as well.

James 2:14-17 “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”

Besides being told how not to treat our neighbor as in the commandments, we are given some tangible ways of showing love too. 1 Corinthians 13 written above showed us some ways. James showed us some ways, and there are many other examples in the gospels and epistles. Feeding people, clothing them, helping them in whatever way they might need. All these are ways of showing love. But there is more.

Hebrews 12:6 “For whom the Lord love he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”

Those whom the Lord loves, He chastens to conform them to the image of Christ. Likewise we are to discipline our children. We are not to provoke them, but discipline them with love. Ephesians 6:4 “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

Discipline reaches farther than just our children. When a brother is sinning against us, we are to go to them and have a talk with them, not let it continue unaddressed. Matt. 18:15-17 “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” This is for their own good, to bring them back into a right relationship with God and the person they have sinned against. If they do not listen, they are spoken to by several people. And if the person will not listen then, they are spoken to by the entire church. If they still will not listen, they are to be treated as an unbeliever by the entire church.

If a brother is in flagrant sin (not necessarily against us, but just sinning) and they do not listen when spoken to, then they are to be ostracized. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” The same process as above should be carried out before ostracization. They should be spoken to and brought before the church, if necessary, first. This discipline is actually a form of love. Just as if we love our children we will not let them run amok with no rules, or guidance, or discipline, we are to do the same for our brothers in Christ. So God's love demands that we sit in judgment upon people's behavior if it does not line up with the behaviors we are taught in God's Word. We are not to just blindly tolerate all things, because that is “loving” our neighbor. It is not loving to not correct someone who needs correction. It is not unloving to sit in judgment if judgment is called for. But one must be very careful to make sure it is God's rules and judgment, not our rules and judgment. Just as breaking the Pharisees laws about the Sabbath were not breaking God's rules, and people did not deserve to get into trouble for breaking their laws, we must make sure that we do not make people live up to our personal rules if they are not God's.

Now that we've established what God sees as love, let us compare that to the list of answers that people have given to the question, “What is love?”

The first answer was: accepting people as they are and not judging them (and vice versa, having people accept you for who you are.) We most certainly should not reject a person simply because their personality or station in life does not please us as much as someone else's. We should accept the poor, the rich, the eccentric, the disabled, etc. alike giving no preference to one above the other. These are not reasons to not accept a person. James 2:1-49 “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?.....But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.”

There is only one reason to reject a person, and that has to do with sin. Even sin should not stand in the way of us accepting a person as they are, if they are not a believer, for what did the passage above say? “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world......For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth.” We are not the judge of those outside of the Church (meaning the body of Christ, not the local assembly). Therefore we should not reject a non-believer simply because they are a sinner. How can they come to Christ if they do not hear? The sin is not important when we are delivering the gospel message. They are a sinner in need of repentance no matter what sin they might be committing. So to ostracize unbelievers from your life because of their lifestyle is not a loving thing to do. We should accept them where they are at, for Christ accepts them where they are at. He will be the one to do the changing, when they accept Him. It is not our place to change them and then bring them to Christ. It does not work that way. So we should not judge them.

As the same passage says, though, and the one previous to it, we are to judge the sin of our brothers and speak to them about it, but in a way which is not self-righteous on our part. Matthew 7:3-5 “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” If they repent, we are to accept them back. Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” James 5:19-20 “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”

If they do not accept the chastisement, then we are to separate ourselves from them and turn them over to Satan. Matthew 18:15-17 (see above) Titus 3:10-11“A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” 1 Corinthians 5:11 & 5 “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 2 Corinthians3:14-15 “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” 1 Timothy 5:19b-20 “before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” Romans 16:17 “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” 2 Thessalonians 3:6 “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.”

Clearly we should love everyone, but the idea that we should just accept people indiscriminately, no matter their behavior, is not a Scriptural teaching. We can love the unbeliever and not judge them, for God said that is His job. That is quite a separate subject from dealing with Christians. When it comes to other believers, we do have an obligation to not simply accept any behavior on their part, with the reasoning that we are “loving” them, but to speak to them (in love) correcting them if they are committing a sin, not accepting or tolerating it. That does not give us the right to judge their quirkiness, their personality, or their freedoms. Many people have a legalistic, pharisaical faith that condemns anybody who does not live up to their standards, (which are not necessarily scriptural) or they take issue with the person's lifestyle (which might simply be different). If their standards are God's standards that is one thing, but many people have taken God's Word and added many rules to it that God has not, just as the Pharisees did. This is not the same thing as correcting someone who is in violation of God's laws. We are not to judge these things. We are warned to be very careful about the way we judge people, for how merciless we are to others, is how merciless God will be to us. Matthew 7:1-2 “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6:35-37“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:” And God help you if you are judging someone and committing the same sin yourself. Romans 2:1-3 “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?”

One problem that seems to be a stumbling block in the church is food. Meat vs. vegetarianism vs. kosher, alcohol vs. non-alcohol. Romans 14 addresses this. We are not to judge this issue with other people, for it is not about sin. It is about freedoms. However, if our freedom is a stumbling block for someone else's weaker faith, we should not flaunt our freedom in their face. This just gives them the opportunity to speak evil of it, which then becomes a sin for them. Hence we are causing them to sin by exercising our right to our freedom. We must for their sake, keep our freedom our own personal business. It is not deceit nor denying whom one is, it is called agape love. Sacrificing something of yourself for their good.

Romans 14:1-23 “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak. Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

This should show that the first definition of love given by men falls somewhat short of God's definition. The second definition is very warm and mushy. “It is a beautiful and unique feeling.” Well, that's a lovely definition, and there truly is nothing that compares to God's love, however it is very vague. Many emotions can be described thus, so it does not really define what love is at all.

Our third definition is “God is love.” 1 John 4:8 agrees with this defintion. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”I think we can all agree that God is the personification of the word “love.” But then to understand what love is, we need to define God. Most people do not really understand who and what God is. This is a huge topic. Actually too big for this article. It is an article in itself, so we will just concede that God is definitely love.

Next we hear that love is “acts of kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice.” As agape love is sacrificial, and 1 Corinthians 13 tells us love is kind, this seems to be a simple definition of love, however it isn't all that love is or should be. Love entails much more than those few things by God's definition. So while it is a start of a definition, it falls short of all that true love embodies.

Our fifth definition of love said that love “pulls you out of your comfort zone and makes you do things you wouldn't normally do.” As agape love demands much from us (read 1 Corinthians 13 again), it is safe to say that it could be defined in that way, but is the opposite true? Is what pulls you out of your comfort zone and makes you do things you wouldn't normally do, always love? There is no definition of “things.” There are all sorts of things that people might not normally do that they would do for love, but that doesn't necessarily make them good things. People steal “for love.” People kill “for love.” These actions cannot be defined as true love, yet some people in their twisted minds think that these actions, which they wouldn't normally do and are out of their comfort zones are love. So clearly this is not a good definition of love.

Love has been defined as “a mystery that can only be experienced, not defined.” Well, I would have to agree that God's love for us is a mystery. Even the Bible defines it as a mystery. 1 Timothy 3:16 “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The mystery of godliness is that God loved us so much that He manifested in the flesh in the person of His Son and died for our sins. It is also true that this cannot be understood unless it is experienced. 1 Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” However, love can be defined and Scripture does define it for us in many ways, some of which have been listed above.

The next definition is “it's up to you.” If anybody can define love in whatever way they want, then the word love has no meaning. Yet God gives it a definition, so this is a very wrong concept, that love is whatever we want it to be.

Then we have “understanding someone else and sharing their dreams.” This does not have to be love. This can simply define two people having similar or shared goals. It does not have to have anything whatsoever to do with love. So it fails as a definition of love. Especially by God's definition.

Number nine on the list is “to provide and protect.” One would hope that a person who loves another would want to provide for and protect that person. God expects men to provide for their families. 1 Timothy 5:8 “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” Parents are expected to care for and protect their children. Matthew 18:6 “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” This does not mean that the provider/protector necessarily loves the people for whom he provides and protects, although one hopes he would. It means that he is observing an obligation or commitment. In this respect it would qualify as storge love, which is the familial love rather than agape love.

The next definition was one that was mocked by many when it was uttered in a movie. It is “love is never having to say you're sorry.” Why this was mocked was because love would ask for forgiveness if it has offended. It would not assume that it should be forgiven without it. It is the opposite of the definition of real love. I realize the implication is that the other person would forgive you because they love you, without your having to apologize, and that would require love, but the idea that you don't need to apologize is not a way to show love. It is the way to show selfishness and contempt for the other person. Hardly a good definition of love.

Following that is “when you care about another person as much as you care about yourself.” This is actually a good definition as God has given us the same one. Matthew 22:39 “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Mark 12:31“And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” In this day and age of the “me” mindset, people love themselves almost to the exclusion of others, so if they were to love someone else as much as they love themselves, they truly would have a great deal of love.

The next definition falls under the category of eros love. It was defined as a deep feeling of sexual desire or physical attraction. That is how the word “eros” is defined. It is not agape love.

Then we have “finding someone who makes you feel good and fills your needs.” Was there ever such a selfish definition? If you “love” someone simply because they make you feel good and fill your needs, you don't love them at all. You simply want them to serve you. You enjoy their love toward you, but there is nothing going back toward them if you only “love” them if they fill your needs, and you are not filling theirs or making them feel good in return. This is a horrible definition of love, yet many a person marries because they are experiencing this type of “love.”

“Nature's way of tricking people into reproducing.” This is likewise a horrible definition, and has nothing to do with love as stated. What is being spoken of here is probably strictly physical attraction that leads to sex, which might result in a pregnancy. Nothing about this requires love, although love between a man and woman will naturally lead to sex, as God built us that way for the purpose of reproduction. This is still instinctual physical behavior, not a definition of God's love.

The last definition is “commitment.” Love should have as part of its definition commitment. Storge love has this quality, and agape love would also. We commit ourselves to Christ when we accept Him. It is a lifelong commitment. Christ made the ultimate commitment to us when He died in our place. He committed to taking on our sins, and is not going to renege on that commitment. But again, this is only one small part of the definition of love. There is much more than this involved.

Some of these definitions were fairly good, and some were quite awful. But as God is love, only He can truly define what it is, and He has given us all we need to know as to what love is - in His Word and through His Son. 
The reason for this entire article came as a result of a conversation in which the person took the stand that Christians should only ever be loving and show love to all regardless, but in the course of the conversation it was clear that what was meant by “love” was not love, but tolerance for any and all things no matter what. That is not love by God's definition, and I felt the need to clarify that concept, as it is what is being taught in so many churches these days. Tolerance is not the same as love. Tolerance can sometimes be the lack of love, for tolerance requires a lack of discipline and judgment, both which love will do. God is not just a God of love, He is also a God of justice and even wrath. These are as much a part of God as love is. The church is neglecting to teach that, so people are getting a skewed concept of who and what God is. There is a need to teach what love truly is by God's Word.

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