Love as God Love’s

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I was reading a new book this week titled, “Pierced for Our Transgressions.” It is about penal substitution which is the theological term for Jesus being punished for our crimes and rebellion against God. Tied up in penal substitution is the concept of wrath which comes from His perfect judgment and love. The concept of wrath and love fitting together is unfathomable in our Western culture because we place a great value on feeling good. We just cannot see how wrath goes with love. Our emotions of feeling good about something takes precedence in our mind which we label as love. Therein lies the problem.

We in our culture cannot see how love and punishment fit together. Therefore we think of punishment as being cruel and bad. (And it can be unless it comes from a Perfect God) In the 1960’s and 70’s love was the rage of the day. Feeling good (good vibes) was the thing which has developed into a “feel good society”. We want heaven here on earth but we look to ourselves to get it. We look to our emotions to guide us into an earthly heaven that we call love. BUT love is not an emotion. WOW! Now you will probably reject anything I say after this point but if you continue to read please bare with me. Until we understand love and wrath we will not appreciate relationships with others nor God’s love. We certainly will not understand ourselves in relating to God nor man.

The word love is the most abused, disused, confusing and meaningless word in the English language and human communication. I recall a brief conversation that I had at Pease AFB, New Hampshire in the 1970’s with a young airman. I was going to visit he and his wife who had a new baby. I was walking acoss the parking lot to their apartment and met him going to his car. I commented that I had come to visit and he said, “I’m leaving.” I then ask when he would be back. (I did not know he was leaving for good. I just thought he was going somewhere and would return.) It hit me when he said again “I’m leaving.” I said “I’m sorry.” and then ask about what was going on. He said I love my wife but I’m leaving. That started a life time of me trying to understand what is meant by the word, love and I discovered our society really does not know what love is. Mostly it is used to indicate one’s state of mind in just about anything where we feel good about something. It is used to indicate sexual attraction. It is used to describe one’s affection for dogs, other animals and humans. It is used to talk about one’s like for a particular food. You’ve heard “I just love apple pie.” (I guess that means something but I’m not sure what it means. You’ll probably respond, “Silly don’t you know it means a person loves apple pie.” (That is what my wife would say.) It is used to indicate one’s activity of participating in sports or political involvement. It is used to help explain to others how one chooses an automobile or cell phone for personal use. It is used in ways that I have come to distaste over the years. I distaste the word “love” because it is so meaningless in communicating what goes on in our minds. It has become meaningless because it is tied exclusively to one’s emotions even though one’s feelings cannot be conveyed to another person even through the word, love.

I hope this gives you some reasons why I dislike the word, love. But we cannot escape using the word. Especially since it is used by God in His Holy Word. We read in 1 John 4:8 “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” These two words, love, in this verse come from a Greek word which means strong affection or good will. In our English language it is agape. Agape has the idea of having a strong concern for someone with duty toward them. It is much more complicated than my short words express. M. Scott Peck in “A Road Less Traveled” said that love (agape) was “. . . the will to extend one’s self for the well being of another.” To me that is the best short definition of the kind of love that God is. It has the idea of respect, duty, to serve with fidelity, and benevolence. But I will add another thought and that is, “in the face of adversity” after “another”. So the definition then is stated, “The will to extend one’s self for the well being of another in the face of adversity.” This kind of “love” only comes from God. If we want it we must submit to our Great God and Savior. However there are two other words in Greek that we translate into love even in our English Bible. In John 21:14f we read of Jesus asking Peter “. . .do you love me?”three times. The last “do you love me?” is not the same as the first two. It is phileo a Greek word which means affection and friendship or as some have said “brotherly love” as in Philadelphia. It is certainly not as intense nor as meaningful as agape. The third is eros which is sexual love. Sigmund Freud, (we all know his name) said that kind of love is cathexis where emotional energy is invested in another. I haven’t found that in the Bible. Us folks who use English then take these words and reduce them to one thereby messing up the mind. Therein lines a problem for the way we think. Our thoughts then are not very clear because the use of love muddles our thinking so we are not clear in thought. In a little book by C.S. Lewis he gives a good word picture of “The Four Loves”. I highly recommend a reading of it.

We’ll save a discussion about God’s wrath for a future thought. How important this is should give us food for thought. God’s wrath and His love are presented frequently. Just something to think about. Maybe God is trying to tell us something.

Our Great Sovereign and Holy God is love. He did extend Himself for our well being in that He came to earth in the body of a man called Jesus to die for our well being. Jesus then was put to death on a cross so that we who believe with faith submitting to His Will could spend eternity in the presence of His love. Otherwise His judgment spoken of in Genesis 2:17 would result in His wrath against us and we would spend eternity in a place and state of hell. For He says in Genesis that we will surely die. Scripture says that we who do not believe are dead already. Which means that we won’t partake of His Love nor the life He gives. That is frightening and is no April Fool’s joke.

Oh the joy of knowing a loving and Holy God who loves. Why is there joy in knowing a Great Almighty God? Because you and I deserve hell and death. But He did something for us that is impossible for us to do and that is save us from hell so that we can live an eternity in the presence of Love. I also remember that I contributed nothing to my redemption. Now that is a joy that surpasses all understanding.

Praise God from Whom all blessing flow.

Soli Deo Gloria

In Him,

Dewey Wise

April 1 2009

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