Love is one of the most (if not the most) misunderstood, emotionally abused, and manipulated phenomenon (in relation to the imperfection and corruption of human perception, experience, and understanding) in the world! It’s crooned on TV, the internet, and over the radio hundreds or thousands of times daily all over the world by various musicians and singers to diverse tunes and styles of music. Also on a daily basis, hundreds of thousands of text messages, cards, and notes carry one form or the other of love content. What exactly is this awesome universal ‘phenomenon?’
Generally, at the ‘superficial’ level, love is basically understood to be a strong feeling of deep affection or great enthusiasm for someone or something. This can be as a result of attraction (or pull), strong feeling of enjoyment, or benefit. However, at the deeper dimension, love goes further than this: It is a “responsible” unconditional feeling of inexplicable affection toward someone or something, culminating into giving of dedicated commitment to such person or thing.
In real love, one does not look to just one’s own interests, but also the interests of the other or others (Philippians 2:4). And, configured in the heart of real love is the law of mutuality or reciprocity – real love is meant or designed to be mutual or reciprocal in operation and expression; ultimately, it is never meant to be one-sided! The Scripture informs; “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 might.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments…For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only…” (Matthew 22:36-40; John 3:16).
Do you know that love does not have its origin in man but in God? The Scripture says, “…God is love” (1 John 4:8). We inherited the capability for love from him when he created us in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:26, 27). But, after the ‘fall’, our experience, perception, and capability for true love experienced corruption and distortion. Therefore, only God can correctly tell or show us what true love is. Love expressed by man is always colored or tainted with one form of distortion or the other. But we can always ‘upgrade’ by aligning with God for ‘love-distortion adjustments!’
God’s love is perfect. When you place it side by side with our own version of ‘love,’ you clearly see the ‘fraud’ in what we have for so long erroneously called ‘love’. The Scripture says God’s kind of Love is “…patient…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 truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a). According to this scripture, real love is responsible, considerate, selfless, godly, affectionate, gentlemanly but firm.
There is discipline in genuine and legitimate love: “…Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth…” (1 Corinthians 13:6). The risen and glorified Jesus declared in Revelation 3:19a; “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline…”; it is what ‘salts’ and ‘seasons’ the other elements of the virtue called love (elements like affection, compassion, kindness, protection etc) and make them beneficial, productive, valuable, and truly therapeutic. Love is not all affection, pouring and dotting over because there is a dimension of our nature that is spiritually and morally ‘rotten’, and if this part is not ‘micro-waved’ through discipline, our lives will eventually be eternally messed up. That’s why the Scripture says, “…The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son…” (Hebrews 12:5-13).
There is a positive ‘mystery’ of benefits in discipline and rigor. Discipline is a way of training someone so that they learn how to control their behavior and obey rules (so that the beauty, peace and harmony of life is sustained, preserved and savored!), while rigor is the ‘stress’ and difficulties of a situation.
I once heard the story (or did I read it somewhere?) of a man who happened to witness a larva metamorphosed into a butterfly (butterflies are synonymous with beauty, and love is beautiful). The process of breaking out of the cocoon is always very rigorous. The man watched with keen interest as the larva struggled and struggled to break free and transform. After what ‘seemed like eternity’ to this man the head and one of the wings came out of the cocoon still leaving the other wing and the rest of the body to break out of the cocoon and form. It was at this point that this man decided to ‘save’ this ‘emerging’ butterfly the stress or rigor of the rest of the process.
He moved closer and took the emerging butterfly in his hands and ripped open the cocoon. What he found out shocked him to the marrow; the part that was yet to break out of the cocoon was still unformed! It takes the pressure of the rigor of breaking out of the cocoon to transform the unformed body into a beautiful butterfly; and this ‘mechanism’ he had just ripped off and disrupted. Consequently, he ended up killing the emerging beautiful creature. Bottom-line: There are things about positive and constructive ‘pressure’, rigor, discipline, correction, drilling, training etc, that makes us better, more productive and useful, bringing out the positive best in us. This is the primary purpose of God kind of Love.
There is this expression of ‘shock’ by many of us about the fact that a good and loving God would punish anyone with fire or divine retribution, that a good and loving God would be so ‘overbearing’ and ‘harsh’ to such ‘horrible’ extent as destroying body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28). Well, what we call ‘overbearing’, ‘harsh’ and ‘horrible’ are actually dimensions of God’s perfect divine love. Surprised? Please don’t be.
Affection without discipline (firmness, frankness, informed guidance and training, when necessary, needed or required) amounts to compromising and endangering the ‘object’ of love (this is irresponsible and unfair); while discipline without affection is abuse (this is horrible and callous)! God offers us “Total Love”; the responsible discipline, affection, and care of a loving Father through Christ, by His Spirit (Hebrews 12:5-13; Philippians 1:8; 2:1-2), and his love is tailored toward making us good and perfect in him. And to make something good or perfect, you ‘work’ on it, and when you work on something, there is some friction or pressure which may produce a measure of discomfort. But eventually it makes it better!
Love can be manipulated, abused, exploited and ‘scorned to death’; in fact, one can actually resist and despise love to self destruction (Proverbs 29:1)! For example, the fact that God’s love is patient and kind is the reason he has not wiped us all out in one swoop by now. We’ve proven over and over that we have turned a bunch of ‘crazy’ and ‘weird’ beings because of our wicked acts. God’s word says his eyes are too pure to behold iniquity (Habakkuk 1:13a). Yet, we ‘entertain’ his divine and holy sight with vileness and wickedness every second all over the world. The Scripture reveals and testifies that God punishes the unrepentant sinner because his love ‘never fails’ (i.e. “endures forever”).
Surprised? Let’s check the Scripture again; “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures for ever…give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron. Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. They loathed all food and drew near the gates of death.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy…to him who struck down the first born of Egypt… (and) swept Pharaoh and his army into the red sea…who struck down great kings… and killed mighty kings; His love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1,15-22; 136:10,15,17,18).
Hmm! According to the scripture above, in one instance his ‘enduring love’ was patient, forgave and rescued. In another instance, the same ‘enduring love’ destroyed and killed. Why? Because this divine and enduring love “…does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6); it’s a double-edged sword! That’s why Divine Love passionately wants to rescue us from sin and Satan and their influences because God’s love ‘prosecutes’ and judges evil to preserve and uphold truth.
It does not side with evil because evil takes away the peace, harmony, and beauty of life; this is why the ingredients of ‘discipline’ and ‘judgment’ are required to make love truly love. When evil is not checked, love and her essence are endangered – ‘forces’ like betrayal, selfishness, greed, manipulation, pretense, bullying, exploitation, hatred etc, go on rampage and make a mess of our world and lives; peace takes flight and love struggles and chokes!
Photo credits: glitters20.com, etcfn.com, and unexpressedthoughts.com via googleusercontent.com.