In on modern society that seeks glorifies the term love, and yet comprehends little to nothing of its true nature, with its glorification and misconception has come with it only deception and confusion, not only throughout secular culture, but within much of the church as well. What is love? Definitions abound throughout society with variations ranging from simply being nice to others, to a much more profound conception of accepting all people regardless of creeds or ideological differences, to an even more troubling meaning of not only accepting all people, but remaining completely silent among them so that offense may not be met. And yet with all this confusion abounding throughout modern day culture, what does the Bible have to proclaim when it comes to love? And how far have much of the modern day church missed the mark?
“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”1 John 4:8 NKJV
To begin our journey of discovering the true nature of love we must first observe what love, especially that of the love of God, actually means in its original language and context. The word love being used within the verse referenced above is the Greek word “agape”, which is translated in the Strong’s concordance as affection, benevolence or charity. This Greek word “agape” is from the Greek root word “agapao”, this being translated as to welcome, to be fond of, or an even better translation is to regard the welfare of. Examining the last definition of the root word, to regard the welfare of, can be translated also as to care for one’s overall wellbeing. The question to ask yourself is when you care for someone’s wellbeing, that is their being itself, do you applaud them when they carry on in ignorance and partake in ignorant acts? Or do you seek to correct them in a kind and loving manner? The same of which you would, not only expect of them, but would desire them to do for you as well.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”Matthew 11:29 NKJV
“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.”Revelation 19:11 NKJV
Since God is love, much of our misconception of the nature of love is derived first from a misconception of the nature of God Himself. When the writers of scripture began jotting down what God had spoken, they had a concise understanding of the nature of God as their connection with Him was on point with little to no distractions to deter them from His presence. Today, we have an unlimited amount of entertaining distractions to keep us busy until the second coming of Christ, of which is too late to establish a genuine relationship with anyways. The necessity of stillness that is required of us in order to establish a proper relationship with God is perceived as an outdated, mystic-like nonsensical activity that should be replaced with technology in order to not be perceived as strange in our modern era. And yet call for stillness is echoed throughout scripture both throughout the Old and New Testament.
In the Bible, the nature of God is expressed throughout both testaments for us to properly observe and examine. We find the best expression of God’s nature within a physical means being represented in the character of Christ, of course. Christ is depicted as a gentle shepherd who leads His people to the new heaven and earth, that is to eternal peace with Him forever. And yet, He is also depicted as a divine warrior who comes to wipe away the wicked off the face of earth. This same divine warrior-like character is also expressed as the one who will wipe away every tear within the new heaven and earth. Again, this gentle divine lamb is seen as the ultimate judge who separates the wheat from the schaff at the end of days. So what is the point of this paragraphical explanation? Love, as well as God Himself, seem to exhibit a dual nature, that is not to say a contradicting nature, but rather a complete, balanced nature.
“I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”2 Corinthians 6:18 NKJV
To better understand this dual nature of God and love, one must again properly perceive the nature of God. Much of the church’s conceptualization of God today is not of a loving father in heaven, but rather a gentle grandfather that only provides candy to His grandchildren. And of course their is no depiction of God as such throughout scripture, and thus this conceptualization is incorrect. God is our Father in Heaven, and thus should be perceived as such. As far as I can tell according to the collected data over the course of the past half a century or so, much or the proper perception of God has become distorted due to the lack of fathers being present in children’s lives in our modern day culture. Fatherless homes have increased from only 11% on average in the 1960’s, to 27% today, with larger numbers being present in minority homes. This lack of fathers seems to be a part, not all by no means, of the problem of attaining a proper perception of the fatherly nature of God.
The ideal mode of being of a father should echo that of the nature of Christ in that fathers should be encouraging, loving, gentle, gracious, and helping. And yet we should also be disciplinary, set some boundaries, be able to protect our children, and teach them in the way of the Lord. The attributes listed are dual natured in that they present both a nurturing role and disciplinary role. Not only are the attributes listed within scripture for all Christians to exhibit, but is also found in parental psychological literature as the ideal way in which to raise children from various observational studies. Too much disciplinary action from the parent produced anxiety, depression, etc. in children later on in life. The same was found in parents that were too loose with no proper boundaries or disciplinary actions set in place. The ideal form of parenting style was found to exhibit a proper balance between relaxed rules and that of specific boundaries and disciplinary acts, essentially that of chaos and order. Again, exhibiting a dual nature, or proper balance as you will.
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NKJV
We must understand that love does not celebrate sin, that is the chaotic nature of being. Nor does it constrict an individual to an interpreted set of dogma. Love rejoices in the Truth, of which is deemed offensive to all who live contrary to it. Does this mean you should keep silent? Not if you love your neighbor. Speak the truth in gentleness with hopes that they will hear it, this is both faith and love in action.
There is a wonderful balance presented as one lives and walks in the spirit while being transformed into the ideal image of Christ. We have our being in the gracious presence of the spirit, while we seek to obey God’s commands to not only help stabilize and preserve our own life, but those around us as well. We exist between extremes as Christ did in His day when He existed and debated both the radical right and left (Pharisees and Saducees), living out life between the potentials of chaos and order. Too much emphases on grace can lead a people into the realm of chaos, while too much focus on works can lead a people into the realm of totalitarianism.
“For whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.”Proverbs 3:12 NKJV
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NKJV
God exhibits a dual nature as He both comforts us in times of trouble, and He corrects us in times of rebellion. He lifts us up when we are cast down, and yet He also transforms us by the pruning away of corruption in our lives. He blesses us with good times to bring about joy, and He brings about bad times to help teach and guide us in the way in which we should go. And since God is love, it would seem to logically follow that love also is dual in nature. Love is when a person comforts another person in times of need, and yet also confronts a person in love and gentleness when a they begin to sail off course. Love is not something of loose fabrication conjured up by new agers or hippies while tripping on psychedelics, but rather it is something of profound meaning. And to properly understand it, one must study the nature of God and His Son to discover the unique balanced, dual nature it manifests in our lives.