By now, Valentine's Day cards are in the drawer and the dog has eaten those nasty hard candies that are left in the heart-shaped box when all the good pieces have been devoured. The tingly tummy has subsided but the love -- if it's true -- remains.
"God is love" (1 John 4:8) is one of the most popular Bible verses, one of the few that most people know. It is often wielded as a sacred shillelagh against those who insinuate that a person's beliefs or behaviors are wrong. Out of 31,273 verses, this one -- true as it is although only part of a verse, taken out of context -- is posited to end all dispute. Apparently, God's love means he doesn't care how we dress, act, talk, redefine his moral standards, spend money, sing, or anything else. He loves us too much to correct us.
Even the Christian world is flooded with sappy, sentimental, sensual, simplistic songs that practically portray the "God as girlfriend" mentality of much modern spirituality. The value of good Christian worship is found in its richness of truth, and Christian love is supported by five pillars:
Action -- Biblical love is action, not emotion. The love of God is known as "agape" in the original language. Agape acts for the welfare of its object. For example, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25). God's love didn't pretend there is no sin; it sacrificed all to remove it!
Attitude -- The heart is the quintessential symbol of love, as evidenced by its ubiquitous presence during the Valentine season. If we say we love God, we must agree with Jesus: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27). True love involves more than the heart; it regulates the entire person and extends beyond loving God to loving your neighbor. "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Jesus demonstrated God's love by voluntarily dying to pay for -- not ignore -- our sins (John 3:16).
Attention -- Our minds flood with our favorite music, fondest memories, and finest moments. Remember decorating your high school notebook with your steady's name? Although tattoos have replaced colored pencils, the concept is still practiced. God thinks about us all the time (Psalm 139:17, 18). If we love God, we think about him often. The opposite is true of people who don't love God: "The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts" (Psalm 10:4 KJV).
Acquaintance -- It's difficult to love someone you know little about, so you get to know the object of your affection. The only way to learn about God is through the Bible, and the only way to love God is through Jesus Christ: "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" (John 14:23).
Allegiance -- True love has depth, and is more than fleeting, shallow, good feelings. Depth of love increases with increased knowledge, the litmus test of genuine love. In a shallow civilization, where the redefinition of marriage includes commitment with the rigidity of Silly Putty, love is based on what one can get. The more flaws are revealed, the more love wanes. A true love commitment overcomes problems: "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses" (Proverbs 10:12).
"Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another" (John 13:34). Jesus demonstrated love by confronting sin so it could be dealt with.
God is love, but he is also -- just to name a few -- holy, just, pure, wise, compassionate, unchanging, benevolent, light, and all-knowing. None of these attributes can be divorced from the others at our convenience, even in the name of love.
Alan Allegra is a freelance Christian writer in Pennsylvania. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. More articles at Lifestyles Over 50: http://www.lifestylesover50.com/ and the Morning Call: www.mcall.com. Available for writing. LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/alanallegra/
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