What’d you just think of?
When you read the headline “Love” what came to mind?
Whether we realize it or not, what we all think about abstract concepts — like love — is influenced by the culture around us. And this is not necessarily a good thing. Consider for a moment how our culture defines love. The vast majority of the time our culture associates sex with love. And this, of course, perverts the whole concept.
In a romantic sense we often confuse lust with love. A young man decides he “loves” a young woman and so he sets about convincing her of it. He takes her on dates. He buys her gifts. He says mushy things to her that he otherwise wouldn’t utter. Why? Because, he would tell you, he “loves her.”
But what, exactly, are his intentions?
Having once been a young man, I think I can say with a pretty good measure of certainty that his intentions include some form of — how shall we say — physical affection. Now, (if you will allow me to use a phrase typical of old guys) “back in my day” that meant going “parking.” After a meal and a movie the plan was to drive to some large body of water and “watch the submarine races.” Today, the physical affection goes much, much further and is increasingly inappropriate — to say the least.
But, in either case the motivation of the young man in question is selfish. He is not focused so much on how he can make his date happy unless her happiness will make it possible for him to get what he wants. This is not love.
So what is love?
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” — I Corinthians 13:4-8a
Paul specifically points out that love is not “self-seeking.” It is not selfishly motivated and yet, our culture has associated a selfish attitude with love for so long that we begin to believe it. Moreover, we begin to associate this brand of “love” with other things. We project selfish “love” into other areas of our lives without even realizing it.
In Matthew 22 Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to love God.
“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”
Now, if we try to love God with our cultural brand of “love” then we really screw things up. Have you ever left a church service and said, “I really didn’t get anything out of that?” If we haven’t said it out loud most of us have probably thought it. It’s a common excuse used by people who don’t want to go to church at all — and it is 100 percent selfishly motivated.
The purpose of a Christian is to bring glory to God. Our first and greatest commandment is to love God. When we go to church we need to recognize that it’s all about Him — not about us. But far too often we approach God with a selfish attitude. We pray for God to bless our country, our family, our finances. We want Him to conform to our will. We come to God because we think we can “get something” out of it. And if we don’t, then we don’t really see the point of it all because…
We fail to recognize two very important things:
1) God deserves to be praised and glorified simply because of who He is.
2) He has already done so many praiseworthy things for us even though He was never obligated in the first place.
God has given us our greatest commandment — to love Him. And He even told us how to do it. It’s high time we realize that our concept of love has been perverted and search the Scriptures for the proper perspective.
Then we need to love the Lord our God in the manner He rightfully deserves — selflessly.