The Reality of Love

 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (rf. Dt. 6:5 NASB)

Hate evil, you who love the Lord, Who preserves the souls of His godly ones;
He delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is sown like seed for the righteous
and gladness for the upright in heart. Be glad in the Lord, you righteous ones, and give thanks to His holy name.” (rf. Ps. 97:10-12 NASB)

            Most of us have been raised with a very shallow concept of “love”. The term has been so romanticized that it is hard to separate its meaning from some level of pure emotion. For our unbelieving world, love is really nothing more than hormones ignited or animal magnetism at work (which is not surprising given their overwhelming affirmation of and belief in the theory of evolution). However, such a perspective voids the word, “love”, of the inherent richness and depth of its value. It is tantamount to expressing “light” only in terms of the amount of energy it displays. There is so much more to love than feeling alone!
            Love” in the Bible is conveyed in terms of commitment, devotion, and sacrifice. As Jesus put it, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (rf. Jn. 15:13 NASB). One does not sacrifice oneself for others on a mere whim or by means of a passing impression. There is a greater intensity and gravity at work in one’s heart to move one to an action as this. In Jesus’ case, it was both His deep affection for His sheep to save them from their sin and to fulfill the will of the Father concerning these same sheep (rf. Jn. 10:11-29). His love was, then, action borne out of a heart of commitment, devotion and sacrifice, fully setting aside Himself on behalf of the benefit of the well-being of others.
            As Jesus so loved us and, especially, His Father, so He expects us to “love” Him and His Father (rf. Jn. 5:23; 14:21). This is not simply an emotional love that He speaks of. It is a love of total commitment of one’s life, energy and priorities. This is the very essence of Deuteronomy 6:5. Everything in our being we should give to the Lord out of our devotion to Him because of who He is, not simply for what He has done for us. Our love for Him should be as His love for us—unconditional.
            When we move from the shallow, emotional-based perspective to a commitment to an action-based, sacrificial view of love, we will also begin to see evil for the ugliness it represents as a contrast to the purity of this love, as noted by the psalmist above. Like darkness is to light, so is wickedness to unconditional love—it is reprehensible and worthy of our hatred, even as it is of God’s wrath. Evil stands for everything counter to God’s holiness and righteous will. It will come to a just end in God’s economy, rest assured. It is definitely not a sin to hate evil. Indeed, God already does. However, we must be careful not to stand in God’s stead, dealing out God’s final judgment on those who, at this point, are caught up in evil’s snares (rf. Mt. 7:1-5). We must remember that, had it not been for the grace of God, we would be in the very same traps, destined to eternal damnation, relishing in our own “pleasures of sin for a season” (rf. Heb. 11:25 KJV) without a clue of how desperate our situation truly is before God! We must learn the distinction between hating evil and loving our enemies, interceding for those ensnared in the clutches of wickedness.

            Thus, to love as God loves is a more profound concept than we have probably ever realized. This is the high calling which He has given each of us as believers. We are to “love” Him and our “neighbors” (those in need who cross our paths daily, especially in the household of faith—rf. Lev. 19:18; Gal. 6:10), but with a love committed to the benefit of others, even to the sacrifice of ourselves. May the Lord grant us the grace necessary for us to make the personal changes in our understanding of our love to match His!

Starting Afresh, Starting Anew

 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You.” (rf. Ps. 51:10-13)

Starting afresh is always an exciting venture, especially when the past has not been necessarily a good experience. Each new day, turn of the seasons, and, most notably, the flipping of the calendar provides us the opportunity to reflect back on what has transpired before and how we hope things will move in a more positive direction for the future. However, as much as we may want to bring about lasting change in our own lives, if we really face the truth about ourselves, we are creatures of habit, having carved out ruts that we will default to chiefly when the pressure is on or the stresses of life begin to increase sharply. In other words, "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"—"the more it changes, the more it's the same thing", usually translated as "the more things change, the more they stay the same," (Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, Les Guêpes, January 1849). Not much hope there, huh?
However, King David possessed insight that many today do not possess. He realized that the source of real change comes from without, not within. If I am to experience a fundamental transformation, it will be because the Power that created the universe will recreate me from the inside out, starting with my spirit and my heart. From there my mind and will will be renewed in such a fashion that I will no longer be the same as I was before. I will have been touched and truly changed by the hand and Presence of Almighty God.
Having then experienced Him firsthand, my life is never the same again. I now have the platform to be able to share with others the same path that I have trod. I can tell them how to gain the benefits I have obtained by seeking Him who came into my life and did what I could not do by my own efforts. My life has been thoroughly renewed by Him and now I want those around me to share in what I know to be true personally.

So, as we join with David, may we let this portion of his psalm be our prayer for every new day, every new season, indeed, every new year that comes our way. God is in the recreation business. Let us be His living displays so that others may come to know His power to become new as well.