What Is Love? – Part 3

Today, as you probably know, is Valentine’s Day. And today, I am posting the final part in my blog series about love and romance. (If all this sounds new to you, you can read Part 1 and/or Part 2.)

valentines-day-2042048_640Today I’m talking about what it means to love one another. I have even MORE Scripture passages to go through than I did last time, but hopefully it won’t be quite as long. Jesus, in all of his teachings, tells us a lot about how we ought to love. He never mentioned giving people pink hearts and chocolate, but that sometimes works too, especially today…

Anyway. Like I said, romance is awesome, but if you’re only looking at romance, you’re missing something. If you look at how Jesus loves us, you’re getting the picture of true love. But, now that we know what true love is, how on earth are we supposed to love each other?

I’m going to start in exactly the same place I left off last time. In John 15:12, Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Now I’m going to jump right in to today’s verses; but don’t worry, I’ll come back to this one.

The first verse is from Matthew 5, which is called “The Sermon on the Mount.” Jesus says a lot of things here, including the command to love our enemies. Most of the sections in this chapter start with the phrase “You have heard that it was said…” and then Jesus gives a common saying, such as “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” Then he proceeds to explain exactly why the particular saying is wrong. Such as:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (ESV)

If that command doesn’t go against human nature, I don’t know what does. Love our enemies? Pray for people who hurt us and maybe even want us dead? Humans naturally love those who love them and hate those who hate them. But Jesus commands us to love even the people who do not love us back.

And did Jesus himself love his enemies? Oh yes. Last time I referenced the verse in Romans that says that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. And if you’ll remember, as Jesus was hanging on the cross, he cried out to his Father to forgive the very people who were crucifying him. And so, if we believe in him, He will help us to love our enemies.

Another passage (and this pertains directly to Valentine’s Day) is Ephesians 5, part of which says:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

human-1215160_640I would suggest reading all of Ephesians 5, because the whole chapter talks about love, but this is the main part I wanted to share because it talks about husbands and wives. Again, we see a mirror. (I just love mirrors! Don’t you?) Love between a husband and wife is meant to mirror Christ’s love for the church. Once again, I would like to direct you to the Circle series. Dekker illustrates this beautifully, both between a husband and wife and between God and his church. Unfortunately, I’m refraining from actually using it as an example, because I don’t want to spoil anything about it in case someone out there is actually reading it.

My next verse (man, I’m really flying through these this time) is 1 Corinthians 13. This is a very well-known chapter, and it’s all about love. What are all the qualities of love? If we are to act in a loving way, how should we act? These are the things it talks about. And this time, rather than quoting the chapter and explaining what it means, I’m going to go through it and list all the things it says about love. I love lists.

Love:

-Is patient and kind

-Does not envy or boast

-Is not arrogant or rude.

(So far this list is looking pretty bad for Kirk, one of my characters.)

-Does not insist on its own way

-Is not irritable or resentful

-Does not rejoice at wrongdoing

-Rejoices with the truth

-Bears all things

-Believes all things

-Hopes all things

-Endures all things

-Never ends.

What a nice conclusion; I’d never noticed the way it ended before. And if you look at Jesus’s life, you’ll see that he perfectly fulfilled all of those things. Once again, our love for others is meant to mirror Jesus’s love. This is where it all ties back to that verse in John. If there’s one thing I want to say in this post, it’s that Jesus commands us to love others in the same way he loved us. I’m going to wrap this up with one more verse, and it’s from Colossians 3:14.

“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

I love that verse. The use of the phrase “above all these” is just like “the greatest of these” at the end of 1 Corinthians 13. And love binds everything together. In perfect harmony. So poetic. *dreamy sigh*

So. This concludes my first Monthly Theme! I’ll be back in a few days or so with another post about who-knows-what. Maybe I’ll blog about music. We’ll have to see though. Meanwhile… if you have any suggestions about what next month’s Monthly Theme should be, please let me know! I’m still looking for ideas. Again, if you have anything else you’d like to say about the verses I shared, please feel free to do so. Or you may add verses you thought of but that I didn’t list here. I’d love to hear from you!

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What is Love? – Part 2

Welcome back to my first-ever blog series, entitled “What is Love?” Last time I explored the theme of romance in books and looked at how romance is different from true love. (If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.) Today, I’m going to be looking at what exactly true love is. There is plenty of Scripture that talks about it, and there are plenty of books out there that illustrate it.

I cannot write anything else in this post without mentioning the Circle Series (by Ted Dekker, if you don’t know). If you’ve never read this series, do it. Read it now. I’ll wait for you. Go ahead. The minute you’re done with it, tell me and we will have ourselves a nice, long conversation. It’s definitely one of my most favorite book series ever. It has lots of different themes within it, but the main theme is the Gospel, which is of course about love. In fact, the series pretty much changed my entire outlook on the Gospel. I’m not going to spoil anything about it… but it illustrates God’s love for us and our love for each other, and it’s just such a good series YOU HAVE TO READ IT.

Now I’m going to share some Scripture passages and talk about what they have to say about love. As I was looking through all the passages I want to share, I was debating which ones I should do today and which ones I should do next time. Should I open with what God says about loving one another, and end with God’s awe-inspiring love for us? Or should I open with the Gospel and conclude the series with how we ought to love one another? After a long debate with myself (I tend to overthink things…), I remembered the verse found in 1 John 4:19: “We love because he first loved us.” So, then, it would make sense to start with God’s love for us, and end with our love for each other. Because our love mirrors God’s perfect love.

merry-christmas-590226_640Jesus is the ultimate example of love because he died for us. I touched on this the other day. An obvious verse is John 3:16. Practically everyone knows this verse, but in case you don’t, here is what it says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Since this is such a well-known verse that all young Christian children probably memorize, the words can sometimes become empty. I know they can for me. It’s like, “Oh yeah, John 3:16. That verse that talks about God’s love and eternal life.”

Have you ever had that problem with writing before? Maybe you’ve written a simply amazing sentence or paragraph, and you read what you’ve written and you just sit there basking in its awesomeness. Then you go back and read it again. And again. And again. As you keep rereading it, it starts to lose its flare. After a while, you’re not even reading the words anymore because you know exactly what they say. And because you’re not reading them, you’re not really hearing them. And so all meaning is lost.

art-painting-285919_640But if you read, if you really read those words as if it were your first time reading them, they suddenly have meaning again. It’s the same with John 3:16. “For God so loved the world.” If you think about it, that’s pretty amazing. In the beginning, God created the entire world and everything in it was perfect. There was no sin, no death, and Adam and Eve had direct access to God their Creator. But after they sinned (in other words, after they completely turned their backs on the very person who breathed life into them), sin entered the world, they no longer had direct access to God, and the universe was then in disarray and chaos. BUT. God so loved the world.

One little thing here before I go on, because my mind just works like this. John’s choice of conjunction here is very specific. I just said “but” (to make a point), but John said “FOR.” If you connect the end of verse 15 with the beginning of verse 16, it makes perfect sense: “Whoever believes in him may have eternal life, for God so loved the world.” The reason we can have eternal life is because God so loved the world. John goes on to explain this. God loved us so much that he gave us his one and only precious Son, who died for us. If we simply believe in him, we will have eternal life.

Have you ever known anyone else with love like this? Who would give up so much for a world that hates him? Who would turn his back on his only son in order to save a bunch of sinful rebels? There is only one person like that, and his name is God.

Another verse is from Romans 5:6-8. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And shortly after, Paul adds, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23.)

These verses illustrate the immensity of Jesus the Son’s love for us. Like Paul said, not many people would die for someone else. And even if you did, you’d have to really love that person. So if it takes great love to die for someone who is very close to you, how much more love did Jesus have? He died for us before we ever loved him. He chose to love us while we were still turning away from him. (Again, I would like to direct you toward the Circle Series.)

The last passage I’m going to share today acts as a bridge between this post and my next post. And you can see why:

“‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.'” (John 15:12)

church-535155_640So we have just seen how Jesus loved us. And now he commands us to love others in that same way. Love unconditionally. Love without expecting anything else in return. Love sacrificially. Love others as Christ has loved you.

There is a lot more than that in this verse, though. To truly understand all of it, we need to look at the context. This is part of a long conversation Jesus is having with his disciples. I literally filled an entire page with everything that happens before this verse and all the events that lead up to it. Unfortunately… this post is already way longer than I wanted it to be, so I’ll share a few things and leave the rest for you to find.

The conversation takes place after the Last Supper and after Judas had already left. One thing I find very interesting is that Jesus begins his speech with the words “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) He goes on to say lots of other things, but comes back to the commandment to love one another. Then after that, he says finally, “Take heart; I have overcome the world.” Shortly after that he is arrested and then crucified.

Perhaps another time I will talk about this more in-depth, but for now I’m going to leave you with Jesus’s command to his disciples: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

And… my next (and final) post in this series will be about how Jesus instructed us to love each other. By the way, if you have anything you’d like to add about the verses I shared, feel free to comment. I’d love to hear from you!

What Is Love? – Part 1

Today, I am happy to announce something exciting for this blog. I’m going to (hopefully) start having a Monthly Theme. One of my best friends actually suggested it to me. (Thanks, Alison!) Every month, I’ll choose a theme that is commonly found and explored in books and write one or two posts on it… or three… or however many it takes to satisfy my geeky writer’s analytical something-or-other. The part of me that likes to analyze things and connect them to other ideas.

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian. I am only a writer who has a passion for the Truth that sets you free, and I love studying the Bible to see what it has to say about themes commonly found in stories. Themes like love.

love-794333_640Love is a fairly common theme in books. There is an entire genre dedicated to love: the romance genre. The entire plot is about the relationship between two people. Take Romeo and Juliet, or Pride and Prejudice. (I suppose that Romeo and Juliet could be considered a tragedy rather than a romance, but for my purposes, I am calling it a romance.) The plot is about love itself. The premise of each of these books is slightly different. Is it forbidden love; do two characters fall for each other but they are forbidden to marry? Or do they hate each other at first, and then over the course of the story, they fall in love?

Of course, there is more to love themes than the romance genre. If romance isn’t the main plot, it is almost certain that it will be a side plot. Take pretty much any book ever written. Like The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Romance subplots are actually pretty rare in the Sherlock Holmes books, unless the mystery has to do with a love affair, but in The Sign of the Four, Mary Morstan is a main character, and Dr. Watson ends up falling in love with her. Another example is The Lord of the Rings. It is in the fantasy genre, but look at Arwen and Aragorn. At one point Éowyn loved Aragorn too, creating a love triangle. Even my current novel has a romance subplot. The main male character is in love with the main female character from the very first scene, and as the story goes along, their love blossoms into something beautiful. I won’t give anything away, but by the end of the story, the climax hinges on their love for each other.

But there is more to love than romance. Romance implies feelings of attraction; it implies the fluttering of the heart whenever you are together; it implies flirting and courting and soft-spoken conversations under the twilit sky; it implies constant thoughts of the person of interest and of future marriage; and perhaps it even implies marriage itself. Romance is reliving conversations in your mind word-for-word; it is the heating of the cheeks whenever he looks at you (or she, if you’re a guy), it is the desire for physical contact and special attention; it is a friendship with something more in mind. A romance plot is the progression of a romantic relationship; it is two people who may or may not love each other in the beginning but end up together in the end (except in the case of Romeo and Juliet); it is obstacles getting in the way of the relationship but love prevailing in the end. Romance is a relationship between two people. But romance implies nothing more than feelings.

And feelings are not the source of truth, are they? True love implies something more than just feelings. More than just a relationship.

Now don’t get me wrong: I love romantic stories. I love it when two characters are in a relationship with each other and I get to see their relationship progress until the end of the story. Romance is good. God created it when he created Adam and Eve. He created men and women to love each other, and he created emotions, and he created marriage. Romance makes for an excellent story, and yet when it comes to love, if you’re only looking at romance, you’re missing something. You’re missing something important.

What are we missing? Let’s look in the Bible.

cross-66700_640

I’m not going to go into all of the passages today, but I will mention a few. Let’s start with the Gospels. Jesus is the ultimate example of love. He loved us so much, he died for us. And did we deserve it? No. Of course not. We turned away from him. We rebelled. We didn’t deserve to be saved; in fact, we all deserved death. But, because God loved us, he sent his Son – his Son – to die and save us. That, my friend, is true love.

The Bible also talks about other aspects of love. It contains passages pertaining to what marriage should look like, it shows us God’s love for us and how we should follow his example, and in places Jesus tells us some pretty unexpected things about loving one another. And of course, what blog post about love would be complete without mentioning 1 Corinthians 13?

But I don’t have time for all of this today. This is a three-part blog series, so during the next two posts I’ll be sharing some of my favorite passages that talk about love. And I’ll talk about what God’s love looks like and how it is the perfect example of perfect love. Appropriately, I will be posting the third and final part on Valentine’s Day. And yes, I did plan it that way. I plan everything.

In the meantime, let’s talk romance books. Which ones are your favorite? And do any of them have a theme of true love? I’d love to hear from you!