Heavenly Love On An Earthly Plane
In this issue, I would like to explore the second great commandment that Jesus gave in Matthew 22:39, “…You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” In the early decades of my adulthood I looked for ways to love myself and others by reading self-help books like, “I’m Okay, Your Okay”, “Co-dependency No More”, and dozens more like it. These books provided some good insights related to psychology and communication but today I can say with complete conviction that it is only when I began to learn to love God and trust Him for answers to my life that I was able to gain the right perspective of how to love myself. As I truly sought the wisdom of His Word and engaged myself in activities with others, I began to learn how to love others too. I finally came to realize that the selfless love God calls us to is a daily choice that I must make.
How Does God Want Us To Love Ourselves And Others?
I began my investigation with a Bible, two great Commentaries and two good Reference books (1What Does The Bible Say About ~ The Ultimate A to Z Reference Fully Illustratated by Thomas Nelson Publishers and 2 I Never Knew That Was In The Bible! By Thomas Nelson Publishers). Here are some interesting facts that I discovered:
- There are no Scriptures that tell us how to love ourselves specifically. As I pondered this fact, I realized from my own experience that loving myself in an appropriate manner became a natural result of my deepening connection with God. It was clearly a work of His Grace and the Holy Spirit in my life.
- The command “love thy neighbour” is found nine times in the King James Version, once in the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18) and eight times in the New Testament (Matthew 5:43, 19:19, 22:39; Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, and James 2:8).
- The Greek language in which the New Testament was written, has four distinct words for love but only two of them, Agape and Philos, are used in the New Testament. Here’s a brief definition of all four:
- EROS describes the relationship between a man and a woman including physical desire, craving and longing.
- STERGOS describes affection such as the mutual love between family members.
- PHILOS describes the care and concern that friends share or what we would call brotherly love within the body of Christ. An example of this kind of love is seen in John 21:15-17 when Jesus challenged Simon Peter to serve others.
- AGAPE describes a unique type of supreme love involving a conscious and deliberate choice to do good for another; a commitment based on the deliberate choice of the one who loves and not based on the worthiness of the one who is loved. A good example of this kind of love is seen in God’s love for the world (John 3:16, 17) and in the well-known passage on love that Paul wrote to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).
What are the Characteristics Of Godly Love?
Here’s what I discovered in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 along with my own thoughts on how I could purposefully try to apply each statement to my own life enclosed in brackets. Take heart, this is an overwhelming and difficult journey that requires complete surrender each time we are unloving to the love of a God who is gently shaping us into the image of His son, Jesus. Perfection is not what we strive for but rather submission to God’s divine will with the hope that He has promised to complete the good work He has begun in us.
Love suffers long and is kind.
(Puts up with people who would be easier to give up on)
Love does not envy.
(Rejoices in the blessings of others and does not rival for attention )
Love does not parade itself.
(Does not brag about self, has no pride and does not seek glory)
Love is not puffed up.
(Does not have an inflated view of self)
Love does not behave rudely.
(Does not tread on another’s feelings)
Love does not seek its own.
(Does not take another’s things or seek another’s position in life)
Love is not provoked.
(Does not take offense easily; is not easily angered or over-sensitive)
Love thinks no evil.
(Does not keep a record of wrongs suffered and focuses on what is right and true)
Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.
(Does not make unrighteousness its object of rejoicing but celebrates other’s achievements in righteousness)
Love bears all things.
(Keeps all things in confidence)
Love believes all things, hopes all things.
(Knows what God can do; recognizes the problems and failures in people but does not lose faith in what they might become through the grace of God)
Love endures all things.
(Survives under every condition, accepting any hardship or rejection, and continues unabated to buildup and encourage)
Love never ends.
(Perseveres in loving others because, unlike other spiritual gifts, the impact of Godly love lasts forever)
Are You Ever In Doubt About What You Should Do In A Given
The “Golden Rule” is “Do for others as you would like them to do for you” (Matthew 7:12 NLT).
In summary, it’s clear that loving God and loving others is interdependent. We can’t do one without the other (James 2:10). The more we love God, the more involved we must become in serving the needs of others. God’s people must love Him and others. The two cannot be separated (1 John 4:7-16; 5:2-3). The selfless love God calls us to involves commitment, sacrifice and service—the kind of things that benefit both the giver and the receiver. It requires that we see through the eyes of Christ. I hope your heart will be encouraged to “press on” to becoming the loving person God wants you to be. If you need help in this area, take time to talk to Him about it.
Here is a prayer that you may wish to pray:
Please forgive me for the times when I have been unloving. Help me today to begin learning all the ways you want me to love others and myself. Help me to see people as you see them. In Jesus Name, Amen.