Clarifying Love

Love is one of the most misunderstood and abused words in the English language. Some of the most unloving things are done in its name. It is confused with lust, neglect, abuse, ignorance, and encouragement of evil. Even in religion, love is the banner of everything from hatred and terrorism to gross immorality and perversion. It is helpful to remind ourselves what constitutes love.

LOVE DOES NOT ENABLE WEAKNESS. Pretending that a loved one does not have a sin problem or character flaw is not loving. Protecting someone in a compulsive, addictive behavior from the consequences of their sin is extremely unloving. This is nurturing negative behavior.

LOVE DOES NOT EXCUSE SIN. Giving someone an out for sinful lifestyles may seem like the warm and fuzzy way to go, but God strongly condemns such validating (Rom. 1:32).

LOVE DOES NOT ENCOURAGE PERVERSION. Jesus condemns sexual relationships that fall outside the original marriage grid (Matt. 19:4-5). Whether we are speaking of “shacking up,” “open marriages,” “gay marriages,” “alternative lifestyles,” or the like, we are referencing things which condemn the soul. That some would even push and promote such things in the name of love certainly disgusts our God (Hab. 1:13).

LOVE DOES NOT ENDORSE A LIE. Lies are of Satan (John 8:44). God is love (1 John 4:8). Therefore, lying and love are incongruous. They are from opposite sources. Telling someone who is not right with God that they are is a lie rather than an act of love.

LOVE DOES NOT EXPECT PERFECTION. In fact, Paul says that love “does not take into account a wrong suffered” (1 Cor. 13:5). It “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8). In other words, love is not something we offer only on stringent conditions and unrealistic expectations. Thankfully, our loving God does not expect perfection from us. He knows we are incapable of it. If we, imperfect beings, cannot give a perfect God perfection, how could imperfect human beings give us, imperfect human beings, perfection? Think about it!

LOVE DOES NOT END RESPONSIBILITY. Love is not a substitute for performance. The abuser hopes that profuse profession of love will make his wife forget that he has beaten her. The liar hopes that verbal affirmation of love is enough to negate the hurt of the one harmed by his or her dishonesty. The person who has yet to obey the gospel will freely confess, “I love the Lord.” That may well be, but it is an inadequate love that does not respond to God’s great love in humble obedience.

The world will never get love “right.” It is up to us to demonstrate it to them. We do this by loving one another (John 13:34-35). We do this by loving God enough to do His will (John 14:15).

Neal Pollard