If the current state of the world and our society and many of our churches is evidence of what love is. . . it is clear that we have only the foggiest of notions of what love really is.
And, in the case of the Church, if we do know, we’re certainly not doing it -- and indeed the lyrics “What the world needs now. . . is love, sweet love” are more than just an annoying commercial for Sandal’s® Resorts!
Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that ". . . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. . ." and it is by no mistake that Love is mentioned first in this list of spiritual character qualities. Any overview of the New Testament will very quickly show that Love in the Christian life is of utmost importance.
The word Love in 1 Corinthians 13, is the Greek word agape, meaning God-like love. And it is in this "Love Chapter" that Paul shows the absolute priority of Love, stating that all other gifts -- without love -- are utterly useless!
If agape is synonymous with God-like, then we have certainly and often abused the term.
Most Christians have equated the word love with caring, benevolent giving or -- in most cases -- nothing more than sheer emotionalism.
On more than just a few occasions, I catch myself using the term very casually and loosely. I express my “love” for physical things . . .
I’ve notice quite a bit on the Internet lately, people substituting the word “heart” to convey their affinity for a certain object or concept:
“I heart the worship at my church,”
“I heart Diet Dr. Pepper®”
or how 'bout this: “I ♥ my Minnesota Vikings”
"I ♥ L.L. Bean"
People say they love an endless number of things. And these statements become ridiculous when we begin to understand what Scriptural love (agape) really is.
Our “love” of some physical thing is merely an opinion – a preference. A preference is not love. To use “love” in this way devalues it. . .
. . . and this is precisely why it is so easy to "fake" our love towards fellow Christians.
Go to Romans 12:9:
The King James Version uses the old English word dissimulation, but the Greek word is anupokritos, and it describes something that is pretended, simulated, faked, feigned, or phony. It pictures a person who deliberately gives a certain impression, even though they know the impression is untrue. In other words, the person is phony.
If we have learned -- by virtue of living in this culture -- to abuse, misuse, misunderstand and fail to appreciate the word "love," how much more of a predicament are we in when we try to actually show it? It becomes apparent why we are admonished in God's Word to "Let love be without dissimulation . . . . "
Having been a pastor's wife, I can tell you with firsthand knowledge and experience that church members are perhaps and often the most guilty when it comes to being phony. There is a lot of hate out there masquerading as love; and I hesitate to put that on the blog for all the world to see because it is so, so sad.
The existence of phony Christians is a universal truth --evidenced by the hypocrisy in churches across the United States (and everywhere!) that becomes more and more widespread as time marches on. . . .
And I'm not sure why, but I receive e-mail from people asking how I personally deal with it. Well . . . I'm addressing it here by attacking the issue from it's big back-door entrance: Lack of true, Scriptural, Christlike love.
The Apostle Paul admonishes us — by instructing us -- "to put away childish things" (I Corinthians 13:11). In other words, our idea and practice of "love" is immature. And in his reference to a mirror (verse 12) -- he reminds us that love is something we grow in. He's telling us -- in so many words -- that love does not come easy. It must be perfected.
The love that we know and understand and practice now (in this lifetime) is partial. God does not give it to us in one huge portion to be used until we run out of it. In that sense, we must always see ourselves as immature -- lacking love. I'll go out on the proverbial limb here and say that I know very few Christians practicing genuine agape love. It's just not our nature!
A time is coming when love will be perfected, and we will have it in abundance like God. In the meantime -- while we are in the flesh -- we are to "pursue love" (I Corinthians 14:1).
Bottom line: Scriptural love is not something we have innately.
So how do you deal with phony love? Phony Christians?
Understand first that we're all in the same predicament. We are all flesh. We are all short of God's glory. We are all short of possessing true agape love.
Instead of getting bitter and hardhearted toward someone who has acted hypocritically in their relationship or friendship with you, learn from the experience. Make the decision that you will not be phony or hypocritical in your relationship the way this person was to you.
Make sure you forgive those who have wronged you. Let it go and do your best to overlook their inconsistencies. The Lord will deal them them about their actions against you, so if they come to you in repentance let them know they are forgiven.
You may never be given the opportunity to offer some people forgiveness. If someone is unwilling to allow the Holy Spirit to deal with them, they may not come to a point of repentance. . . . And it is not ours to judge that person's heart. It is ours to pray for them. God's timing is perfect . . . and
Someday, when you least expect it (and have altogether forgotten. . . ) someone who hurt in the past may come out of nowhere and ask for your forgiveness. FORGIVE THEM!
Jesus said this:
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
All by itself, this establishes a pretty high standard. But HE raises this a notch when HE says this:
"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."
~ Matthew 5:44
HE also says this:
"Greater love has no one that this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."
~ John 15:13
Will we ever live up to this?
~ Esthermay Bentley-Goossen
© 2008 The Heart of a Pastor's Wife
Fruit of the Spirit Friday at Heart of Wisdom
Inspiration for Fridays:
God Stop Friday at Girlfriends for God
Company Girl Coffee at Home Sanctuary