GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 584 • November 18, 2020
LOVE IS A VERY COMPLICATED THING – Part Two
SEVEN CHARACTERISTICS OF LOVE (AGAPE).
Love EVALUATES the other person. It does not objectify. This is not an attempt to assign a value, but rather the recognition of the inherent worth and value of the person (and all persons). This requires seeing one as a person, not an object or thing.
Love is CONCERN. It is a desire and willingness to preserve the well-being of the person, to protect the person against loss or harm. and supply the needs of the person. “Love the sinner and hate the sin” is a deceptive slogan which we often hide behind – at least we have difficulty applying it properly. There is no sinner apart from the sins that make him a sinner. There are no sins apart from the sinner. What we can say and should say is, “I love the person, but I do not love and cannot tolerate his sins. I wish he did not have those sins. I will try to convert him.” Sometimes it is necessary to exclude a sinner from fellowship, or even to isolate him from society to keep him from hurting others. But this is a negation of PHILEIA, not AGAPE. It acknowledges that there is no likeness, no shared concepts and goals, or kinship – no “connection.” But it is not a lack of concern. There is an ongoing desire to save the person by change and rehabilitation – by separating him from his sins, redeeming and reconciling him to God and God-likeness, and thereby to fellowship with God and His people. Acknowledging that one is lost does not require one to stop loving the person, or even to stop praying for him, hoping that he will repent, obey, and be saved.
Love is UNIVERSAL (Matthew 5:43). It is difficult to love those who present us with social, emotional, or intellectual problems and threats. But the love (AGAPE) we speak of has no limits and excludes no one. Human love says, “I’ll love you until…you disappoint me, hurt me, make a mistake, disagree with me…or until I find out that you do not love me.” God’s love (AGAPE) says, “I will love you to the end, until there is no hope for your salvation – and even then I will regret the loss” (Romans 10:21, 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9). Man’s love says, “I would love you if you would respond to me on my terms, if we believed the same things, if your skin was the same color as mine, if you were not a communist, and if I could be sure that you wanted my love and would return it.” God’s love (AGAPE) says, “I love you whether or not you love me. I love you whether or not you want me to love you.” If there are any conditions to God’s AGAPE, they would have to be something like this: Unless you accept and return my love, you will never be able to enjoy the full benefits of it. Case in point: “God so loved…that He gave… that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish….(but) he who does not believe is condemned already.” (John 3:16, 18).
Love is IMPARTIAL (closely related to the universality of love). In a world of caste systems, false values, competition, jealousy, segregation, discrimination, and respect of persons according to the person’s ability and resources, etc we sometimes find it difficult to believe that even God can be perfectly impartial (Acts 10:34f–35). God is impartial because He recognizes each person as being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). We can be impartial only if we recognize the shared image of God as the only valid basis for love (James 2:9).
Love is APPRECIATION of the contribution made by the other person. Willingness to receive from the other person, according to that person’s ability and resources. It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), but it is necessary to provide an acceptable outlet so that others can give too. (Perhaps that is why God, who really needs nothing that we can give Him, is willing to accept our gifts. He knows that we need the blessing that comes from giving – to Him, and to others).
Love is RESPONSIBLE, both for what it gives and what it receives. If love is expected or desired, then one must do his best to be lovable. God is love, and God is lovable. He shows us how to be both lover and loved. The categorical imperative (of Jesus Christ, rephrased by Immanuel Kant) is: “Act as though you thought everyone in the world should imitate your example.” (Mt. 7:12
Love is INDISPENSABLE. Nobody can get along without it – an easy deduction from what we have already said about it (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Other spiritual gifts and qualities mean nothing without it (13:1-2). Love is the proper motivation for benevolence (13:3).
WHAT LOVE IS AND IS NOT.
No discussion of love (AGAPE) would be complete without some reference to Paul’s treatment of it in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. You will notice from this passage that love is DISTINCTIVE in quality and in both in attitude and action.
LOVE IS NOT:
• POSSESSIVE – seeks not its own, is not selfish or self-serving. • PARASITIC – does not envy or covet the things of others.
• PROUD – puffed up, boastful.
• PRESUMPTUOUS – “pushy,” promoting itself.
• PERMISSIVE. It is not a “pushover” or an “easy mark.” It is not tolerant of evil, does not give in to evil, but tries to correct it.
• PERVERTED. It does not rejoice in (find vicarious pleasure in) the evils of others. • PROVOKED – shallow, bad-tempered.
• PREJUDICED/PARTIAL. The theme of this passage is mutual concern, no partiality. (1 Corinthians 12:25, Timothy 5:21).
• PATIENT. It endures all sorts of things without giving up. • PATRONIZING – in the good sense: helpful and supportive.
• PURE – thinks no evil, assigns or assumes no evil motives. • PROPER – well behaved, treats all fairly and equitably.
• POSITIVE – looks for the good, places the best construction on all things, believes and hopes for the best.
• PROTECTIVE – seeks to cover the multitude of sins and save a sinner (soul) from death (1 Peter 4:18, James 5:19-20). • PERMANENT. It endures when all else has given up or gone away.
• PRICELESS – it cannot be bought, sets no price on itself; it does not depend upon the return of dividends. (Luke 6:32-36, Romans 5:7-8 When we were yet without strength … without help or hope). • PERFECT – when it is given, accepted, shared, and returned (1 John 4:16-18).
The idea of the SUPREMACY OF LOVE (1 Corinthians 13:13) is too broad to treat adequately here. But there are two ideas that should be considered: First: Spiritual gifts, abilities and opportunities are temporary. They pass away. Second: But love can outlast everything. In outlasting everything, love eventually conquers everything.
Love offers the ultimate proof of itself in INVOLVEMENT AT THE DEEPEST LEVEL OF OUR BEING. It works to bring about the good things needed by the one who is loved. To paraphrase and repeat, Jesus said in John 13:34-35, As I (Jesus) have loved you, love each other.” This is the way that others will recognize you as my disciples. They will know that you belong to me and are identified with me when they can see that you love each other in the same way that I love you and all others.
Loving others is a way of loving Christ. Giving one’s life to Christ is a way of showing love for Christ. We acknowledge and accept His love for us by giving ourselves in love to Him.