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What Is Love?


Montgomery Paul Webb
  1. The Biblical Emphasis on Love
  2. Love Is a Learned Experience
  3. Love Is a Spiritual Power
  4. Love Overcomes the Mystery of Life
  1. The Bible emphasizes that our lives must be based on love!
    1. The most important commandments found in Scripture are to love God and to love each other.
      1. Matthew 22:37–40: Jesus said unto them, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (All citations KJV unless indicated).
      2. Scripture repeatedly emphasizes loving our neighbor. Galatians 5:14: For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, cf. Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19; Romans 13:9; James 2:8.
      3. John 13:33–35:…Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

    2. Christians experience life through a relationship with God, which focuses on love as a compelling force that determines our very nature.
      1. II Corinthians 5:14,15: For Christ‘s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (NIV)
      2. Ephesians 3:17–19: …And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God. (NIV)
      3. I John 4:7–10: Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us….
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  2. Does love come by chance or maturity?
    1. Teaching on the nature of love has been neglected by the church, and in general, there are not Christian publications on —
      1. What is love?
      2. How can someone love as Christ loves?
      3. How are errors committed in loving another person?
      4. How can life be enriched through love?
      5. How can living be structured on love?

    2. However, almost no one believes there is anything to be learned about love. (See Postscript below)
      1. People know love is important. A constant stream of songs and movies and novels indicates the population is starved for love;
      2. but, in our culture love is considered a pleasant sensation, a matter of chance or luck, not something that requires effort or knowledge.
      3. Most people assume that the problem of love is in being loved, not in how to love.
        1. Therefore, they are eager only to learn how to be more lovable, through pleasant manners, interesting conversation, attractiveness, sex appeal, or success.
        2. And then, they search for the exact method to be loved by the right object/s.
      4. Their focus is on a union with the opposite sex, which occurs when two people just fall in love.
        1. However, this intimate relationship seems to be based on a commodities exchange. A man with so many social assets finds a woman with comparable assets, and they fall in love as a deal.
        2. At times, a relationship arises from the confusion of infatuation, the sensation of sudden intimacy, or a sexual attraction, especially when the couple is intensely lonely, until disappointment or boredom sets in.
        3. [Note: the divorce rate alone in our society indicates people regularly fail at love. Chance unions do not provide a firm foundation for a relationship, and people often consider their worldly concerns more important than their love].
      5. Even the basis of brotherly love in our culture seems to arise from a comparison of personal assets to be exchanged, as people pursue prestige, money and power, and seek relationships that correspond to or advance their social positions.

    3. The Bible represents love as a learning experience and provides instruction on how we may mature in its expression.
      1. Philippians 1:9: And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. (NIV)
      2. Hebrews 10:24: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (NIV)
      3. Galatians 5:13: For, brethern, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
      4. Luke 6:31–35: And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great….
      5. Perhaps, the passage in the Bible that most explicitly gives instruction on love is I Corinthians, chp. 13, which in essence emphasizes that the one who loves must want what is best for the one who is loved, even when having to sacrifice self-interest. Note, in particular, the humility of verses 4,5: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. (NIV)
      6. Christ made himself an example of loving humility in the ways of every day living. John 13:14,15: If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another‘s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
      7. And, the example of Christ’s mission on earth emphasizes humility as indispensable to the expression of true love. Christ’s love overlooked the humiliation of becoming human and being crucified, Acts 8:32,33; Philippians 3:6–8.
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  3. Love is a spiritual power.
    1. Love arises from the human spirit, which is made in the image of God.
      1. Genesis 1:24,26,27: And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind, and it was so…And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…So God created man in his own image…male and female created he them.
      2. I John 4:8: He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
      3. Due to sin, Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, and paradise was lost for every human being, now separated from God and no longer united with nature, Genesis, chp. 3.
      4. Still, an inner force compels the individual in a search for God, and in the desire to express love as the essence of the human spirit, to be mated with a member of the opposite sex, and to have a union with people in general.
      5. The loss of paradise only can be overcome by being reunited with God and with his love.
      6. Once having a loving relationship with God, a person can pursue love of self, of spouse, of family, and of humanity.

    2. Love is based on the overwhelming value and worth of who God is and who we all are, being made in his image.
      1. Our love of God and each other requires a radical commitment, for God‘s holy image is precious beyond understanding.
      2. Love is expressed by giving to the one who is loved, without concern for what is received in return, despite the self-sacrifice that might be involved.
      3. Hebrews 12:2: Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
      4. Love is not giving up something to receive something: it is not a deprivation suffered; but, it is the joy of bringing the other person to life, in wanting the very best for the one who is loved.
      5. The most valuable thing that can be given to another person is one’s own life. Christ sacrificed his life, that we might have life, and now in love, we can give to others everything that is our life: our knowledge, interests, work, sadness, delight, possessions, or anything that we are.
      6. And, in giving to others, they respond by giving back who they are. Then, we all become rich in giving to each other, and in sharing the joy of who we are together.
      7. However, we become perfect in our expression of love, when we permit ourselves to be completely possessed by the Holy Spirit, and as we see others as God sees them.
        1. John 15:12,13: This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
        2. Galatians 5:22,23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance….
        3. I John 4:12: No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us, cf. Ephesians 3:17–19, (quoted at I. B. 2, page 17).

    3. To ignore the human spiritual drive for love and for God leads only to a life of failure.
      1. The circumstances of living are indefinite and uncertain. We cannot control when we are born or when we die, and we struggle against the forces of nature and society.
      2. Most people actually are not aware that their inner unrest, even desperation, arises from being separated from God and from the loss of paradise.
      3. If true love is not achieved in life, which is based on a relationship with God, the loneliness that ensues becomes an unbearable prison, leading to feelings of anxiety and helplessness, to a loss of self-value, or even to insanity.
      4. However, rather than turn to God to overcome the human situation, people will resort to being consumed by their work, to capturing a union with nature merely through art, to belonging to a social group held together by illusions, to idealizing the image of another person. Countless temporary and mechanical solutions are sought, which become as drastic and addicting as consuming alcohol, taking drugs, or pursuing the sheer pleasure of sex.

    4. Love requires a mature character, seeking repentance of sin, turning from being self-centered, and focusing on an identity of being made in the image of God. Only then can a person reach out with qualities such as —
      1. care: the active concern for the life and growth of the other person;
      2. respect: accepting the one who is loved for the person he or she actually is;
      3. responsibility: foreseeing the consequences arising in that person‘s life and having a response;
      4. and the desire to fully know who that person is.
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  4. The power of love overcomes the mystery of life.
    1. We can never fully know God, another person, or even ourselves. There is always a secret to just who we are, and God is always more than we are able to fathom.
      1. I Timothy 3:16: Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great…(NIV) : cf. I Corinthians 2:11.
      2. Psalm 8:3,4: When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him?
      3. Psalm 139:14–16: I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (NIV)

    2. However, love transcends our need to understand the mystery of God, other people, or even ourselves.
      1. Our love penetrates another person and quiets our desire to know the secret of his or her soul.
      2. By a loving union with someone, we come to know that person, to know ourselves, and to know everyone, although actually, we know nothing.
      3. And, God also can be known only through love, not by our intellect, but only by being united with him.
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In regard to the social attitudes and common behavioral responses toward the need for love noted herein, see Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving — New York: Bantam Books, 1956, pp. 1–53. This first half of Fromm‘s book sets forth a position on the nature of love, which actually depends on some biblical passages, and which to an extent also influenced this outline. However, neither this book, nor any of Fromm‘s writings can be recommended. In reference to religious matters, Fromm is a master of ambiguity, and while he may seem to be in agreement with conservative Christian doctrine at times, a complete review of his literary works reveals he does not believe in divine inspiration or a biblical world view. He feels at liberty to revise the meaning of Scripture according to his own whim or experience, or as academics might prefer to describe his method, according to theories in psychology. Thus, not coincidently, he overlooks many Bible verses necessary to form a complete Christian understanding of love, and he disregards the image of God as being at the foundation of what love is. Instead, he defines love in a figurative manner, merely as giving, and he reduces the full impact of knowing God in achieving love. Nevertheless, some of Fromm‘s insights are useful, particularly on how love is not a matter of chance but learning; how care, respect, responsibility, and knowledge have a significant part in maturing at love; and how love overcomes the mystery of knowing another person.
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What Is Love? constitutes a chapter from Church Essentials: Relevant Issues for a Spiritual Community. Copyright 2004 by Montgomery Paul Webb. All rights reserved. However, permission is granted solely to private individuals to make ten copies of any disc containing this book, to include whatever other publications are available therein from the Church of the Love of Christ, for distribution to friends and acquaintances, on the conditions — 1. that the entirety of the contents of the disc is copied;— 2. and that absolutely no change, addition, or omission is made.

From printed material, photocopies only of any chapter can be made privately by individuals for distribution to friends and acquaintances, on the conditions — 1. that the entirety of the chapter is copied and distributed, including the pages of the chapter rendering the name The Church of the Love of Christ, the author’s name, and the copyright notice; — 2. and that absolutely no change, addition, or omission is made.

Chapters include — Introduction | What Is the Non-Institutional Church? | What Is Love? | Seeking Christian Humility | The Image of Woman in Scripture | Corinthians Un-Compromised | A Brief Synopsis of Jonathan Edwards’ RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS. | Charles Finney on Evangelism: Brief Synopses of REVIVAL FIRE and POWER FROM GOD.

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