We’ve all seen it everywhere; the signs that say “love is love.” It seems like every third car on the road bears the coexist bumper sticker. When I see these, my mind always goes to the same place and I just keep thinking to myself, what does that even mean? Who is defining this love? The implication of these kinds of statements is for everyone to tolerate all kinds of sin and keep your mouth shut unless you are celebrating it. Is this how the Bible defines love? Christians should be equipped to define love and live it Biblically.
First, let’s define love Biblically. The Bible says that God is love. His very essence is love. Therefore, the way God exists and acts, defines love. Everything he does, everything, is loving. Love is internal to His very nature and works harmoniously together with all of His other attributes. Even when God exercises His judgement, He is loving. Love cannot be defined apart from God (1 John 4:7-12). The agape love (John 3:16) that Scripture discusses is a self-sacrificing love. The greatest example of love we see is through Christ.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”Romans 5:6-8
Christ condescended to live the righteous life we never could and die the death that we all deserved to save people who hate him. As I stated above God is love, but He is also righteous and just and these attributes must work perfectly together. One does not exclude or negate the other. The example of the cross shows us not only that God is love, but also that God is so intolerant of sin that He was willing to pour out His wrath over sin onto his own Son. It is at the cross that we see God’s utter hatred for sin, perfect justice, and sacrificial love on display for the world to see.
Second, we must understand how the world defines love. It seems to me that love is defined as a tolerance and celebration of sin. Many people, when they hear the words “God is love,” think of love in worldly terms. God’s justice and righteousness are totally removed from the equation. Love to the world has more to do with sentimentality and over sensitivity against offence than true love. It sees love in a one dimensional fashion. Love is simply kindness and would never make someone feel uncomfortable. The “kindness” is not bounded by anything, which is ludicrous. In marriage, love has boundaries. The husband and wife are supposed to “forsake all others” and keep the marriage bed holy (Heb 13:4). Unlike the world, God should never be stripped down into the aspects that people like and then throw out the aspects or attributes people do not like. People must accept all that the Bible says about Him and believe that all His attributes work harmoniously together. Otherwise, you are creating a god of your own making; an idol. When the world separates God’s love from His justice and righteousness, they essentially remove God from the definition of love. Therefore, love can mean anything they want it to mean. The love the world talks about today is not a self-sacrificial love; it’s a self-indulging love. There is no sacrifice of one’s own will or comforts to serve God and others, there is only tolerance and a forcing of the celebration of sin. This is not biblical love, this is worldly love characterized by shallow sentimentality.
Christians should not be surprised when the world (unbelievers) incorrectly define and exhibit love because, apart from God, love cannot be properly defined or exhibited. Christians can only love because we believe God first loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4: 10). The gospel of Jesus Christ should be an example to us on how we should love. The Godhead displays sacrificial love perfectly at the cross. As Pastor John MacArthur has said, “Biblical love is not chemistry. It’s not impulse. It’s not emotion. It’s self-sacrifice. And when you love like that, and I love like that, the church will be Christ like and the world will know that we belong to God.” So how does the Christian love? The Christian must love by calling sin, sin, warning people of the coming judgment, and pleading with sinners to come to repentance and faith in Christ. We should never be tolerant of sin in ourselves or anyone else because God does not tolerate it. Everyone knows the beginning of 1 Corinthians 13 that loves is patient and kind but no one ever seems to remember the end, “love does not rejoice in evil, but rejoices with the truth.” We should never mistake Gods patience and kindness towards us to mean that he tolerates sin. Christians must be able to, in humility, communicate and define these terms Biblically to unbelievers. For we know that Scriptures say of us that, “we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passion and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Christ Jesus our Savior…” Titus 3:3-6 We have been shown unimaginable grace and sacrificial love by God; therefore we must do the same with others while also not compromising the truths found in Scripture. May God help us do this.
Rachel is a wife and mother of four young children. She has a love for listening to expository preaching, theology, and doctrine. She desires to make Christ known through her marriage, parenting, and in every word and deed.