Perhaps no subject in history has been discussed more than love. Yet love remains one of the most misunderstood concepts in our culture. On a daily basis, through music, movies, and television, society discusses love as virtue, love as vice, love as physical intimacy, but mainly society speaks of love as an emotion. The Bible, however, describes love as something greater than just a feeling. The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13 that without love, his accomplishments and talents mean nothing. Through Paul’s teaching we learn that our actions, if unaccompanied by godly love, have no value.
Why are the biblical view and the world’s view of love so different? Primarily, the biblical view of love involves sacrifice. If we love God, we are to be His obedient children. Though we may fail in our efforts from time to time, through our obedience, we demonstrate our love for God. The love the world knows is a love that is self-gratifying and does not require obedience to anyone or anything.
The war between flesh and spirit is a war of allegiance. If we would give in to the flesh, our definition of love would follow the world’s definition, namely, that nothing is greater than our desires and ourselves. It would allow us to sin with impunity. However, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus’ life was a model of perfect, obedient love. One of the greatest examples of obedient love the world has ever witnessed occurred in the garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus, face to face with humiliation and death, prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). The love Jesus has for the Father defines His allegiance.
Out of love, Jesus acted in accordance to His Father’s will. Similarly, our Lord commands that we follow His example. In John 15, Jesus describes Himself as the true vine and those who obey His commands as the branches. We must realize that our life’s efforts are ultimately fruitless and amount to nothing when we do not possess the love of God.
The ungodly love of the world is like noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. Let us love one another, then, in obedience to our Lord, whose example of true love we are to manifest as His representatives to a disobedient world.