One of the most commonly used and abused word is LOVE. What exactly is love? Is love a feeling? Is it an attitude? Is it an emotion peculiar to young people or is it a kind of affection reserved for older, more mature people? What precisely is love?
In a society where the word love has been grossly abused, it becomes difficult by the day for people to understand what love really is. Every day, we see human and divine love abused in various ways. Some people have this erroneous belief that God is too loving and kind to allow anyone go to hell, a place of eternal torment. They wrongly believe that God's love will cover all their sins and prevent them from being lost. But this is clearly contrary to scripture. God's word tells us that "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him" (John 3:36). No matter how much God loves a person, if the person refuses to believe, accept and live for Christ, the person becomes an object of God's wrath. God won't break or set His word aside for anyone. God's love can make Him sacrifice His One and Only Son for us to be saved, the love of God can make Him forgive the most abominable act, God's love can even give us blessings and opportunities we don't deserve, but God's love won't make Him grant eternal life to those who out rightly reject His Son and fail to live for His glory. So it is an abuse of divine love for anyone to think that God is too loving to allow those He has created go to hell.
When it comes to relationships, you often hear people justify sexual relations between unmarried people by simply saying 'we are in love'. They believe the love they have for one another permits them to have sexual relations with each other, something God frowns at (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7). Their thinking is that it is if they don't love themselves or have no intentions of getting married that there is a problem with their having sexual relations. It is an abuse of love to use love as a cover up or blanket for evil.
Love is not a sign of weakness. It takes faith and courage to really love. But for some people, they spare the rod and spoil the child because of 'love'. Hebrews 12:6 tells us that the Lord disciplines those He loves. It is not love to see someone you claim to care about walking into error, committing a sin, living a reckless and harmful life and not do anything about it. Proverbs 27:6 says "wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses". Sometimes you need to 'wound', rebuke, correct and discipline those you genuinely love.
Love is certainly not manipulative. But we see people manipulating people to do all kinds of things under the guise of love. A single person can say to another, 'if you really love me, you would sleep with me'. A spouse can say to his or her partner, 'if you really love me, you would allow my parent live permanently with us'. And on and on the manipulation goes on
Love is not a temporary, fleeting feeling that is here today and gone tomorrow. Someone may claim to love another, but the moment the person he or she claims to love loses his job or develops a terminal illness, the love disappears and is quickly transferred to another person.
The further away we are from God, the easier it is to abuse, misunderstand and misrepresent love. One of the reasons why God tells us in James 4:8 to draw near to Him is so that we can experience what love really is. 1 John 4:16 says that GOD IS LOVE. If you want to know what love is, then look at God. God doesn't love just with words or when it is convenient. The love of God was manifested in its highest form on the cross where Jesus was crucified. On the Cross of Calvary, Christ showed that there is no partiality in love. He died for all on the cross irrespective of age, sex, status, background and tribe. On the cross, Christ showed that there is no place for unforgiveness in love. He said concerning those who had been brutal to him "Father, forgive them, for they do not know not what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). On the cross, Christ showed that love takes you out of your comfort zone to make huge sacrifices for others, even for those who don't deserve it. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
In our world today, wickedness is on the increase, wickedness has taken a very harmful and dangerous shape. On a daily basis, innocent lives are being taken. We also see all kinds of wild and crazy things being done in the heat of anger; spouses murdering their partners over a football match or an unpaid bill. Our own personal financial, health and spiritual challenges have made us indifferent to the needs and burdens of others.
True love can change so many things that are happening to us and around us. This is why God, the true source of love, wants to renew and revive our love for Him and for one another. Is your heart empty of love? Have personal needs and challenges made your love for God and the brethren go cold? Have you been abusing God's love? Or are you completely confused about what love is? As you draw near to God, may you experience a fresh infilling of God's love to love the unlovable, forgive the unforgivable and accomplish the unimaginable. May our hearts be so deeply rooted in the unquenchable love of God that we become living examples of true disciples of Christ. "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35).
Tesh Njokanma is a lawyer by training whose heart is in writing. She is a prolific writer with over 15 years experience as a magazine Editor. She is a pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God with a prayer and teaching ministry. Tesh is married with children. She is based in Lagos, Nigeria.