Old Testament Reading- Proverbs 8:12-21
New Testament Reading- 1 John 4:7-21
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -February 13, 2022
Tomorrow is Valentine's Day and so today, I thought an appropriate day to talk about the topic of love. What is love? We all have some idea of what it means to us, but how do we know that our definition is correct. Well, I feel love for someone, so it must be love, right? Not exactly and unfortunately it is the same sentiment that has led to many wrong relationships that didn’t end well.
By which measure do we know what is love actually and what is not really love at all?
So, what is love actually? How do I know if what I believe about love is wrong? We have to know that some of us grew up differently than others. Maybe you had poor role models to show you what love is really like. For example, a man and woman are married and have three children. Some parts of the man and woman’s relationship are fine, but when he drinks, which is more often than not, he has a tendency towards violence. When the man is in this state, he often gets in arguments that turn into name calling and that escalates into shoving and hitting. The next day, when the man sobers up, he is terribly sorry for what he has done and tells his wife it will never happen again and that it only happened because he was drunk. The woman accepts his apology and even feels sorry for her husband because he feels so badly about it. He really does feel bad about it, right up until the next time he decides to drink too much, and it happens all over again. Again, he feels terrible, and she forgives him. Do you see the pattern here? Does this seem like love? But how do we know? By which measure do we know what is love actually and what is not really love at all?
Let’s look at another example.
A couple live together and have done so for a long time. They have talked about getting married many times, but something is in the way on his part. Every time it seems that they get closer in their relationship, they will have a terrible argument, there is name calling and there is always a long litany of wrongs that resurface every time this happens. This man feels like this relationship is always a lot of work on his part, that he is not good enough for her by just being himself. She makes him feel like he has to be what she wants him to be and do things just to please her. He would do anything to please her, but he always comes up short and she pounds him into the ground over it. No, not physically, but mentally and emotionally. He feels like less than a man and it is taking its toll. Should a relationship really be this hard? Am I really as bad as she tells me I am? Is this love actually?
One more example...
A married couple that bickers and fights a lot has three children. A daughter that is
seventeen, a son that is fifteen, and a son that is ten years old. These three children have heard nothing but fighting and swearing at each other all their lives. They know no other way. The parents act that way with each other and they act that way toward the children. The seventeen-year-old and the fifteen-year-old fight like cats and dogs, running around the house screaming at each other and calling each other names that would make a sailor blush. Mom and dad’s response to all of this is tell the kids to shut the you-know-what up and when one parent sides with one of the kids, the other parent attacks them as well. Dysfunction at its highest degree and generational to boot. These children grow up thinking that this is what love is supposed to be like and have the same relationships that they grew up with. You want to know the saddest thing about these three scenarios? They are all too common today and they are not getting any better.
Don’t believe me? Ask a teacher some time to tell you some stories about the children they teach in school and the parents they have to deal with on a daily basis. This folks is a real problem! But how does it get solved? How do you get to say what love and relationships should be like? What authority do you have?
The answer is, if you are a human being, you don’t have the authority, you are just as broken. How often do therapists have bad relationships? How often do physicians die from smoking? How often are the teacher’s kids the most difficult to teach? All of this because we are human and are full of hypocrisy. Remember the old saying, “Physician heal thyself,” How often does that apply to all of us?
The outlook seems bleak based on what we have talked about so far, but what is impossible for us is possible with God. If we cannot look to human beings to find the answers for which we are searching, then we need to look to God. It is really where we should start looking in the first place, but many of us don’t often do this. We can do it ourselves, we’re not clueless, you know. I, I, I, me, me, me, when will we finally get the picture, that God is not trying to control us, but to care for us. God is who we need to look too if we want to know what love is actually. God is the standard by which we should be measuring by.
1 John 4:16 tells us,
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love.
Whoever lives in love lives in God,
and God in them.”
God is love - Wow! So, if I am to know love, then I must begin by loving God? Right! And, not only that but you must begin to let God lead you to all the truths that He has to offer.
Let’s look at how Paul described love to the Church in Corinth,
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
Now, if that is the standard by which we should measure, let’s look at our scenarios
again. The man who gets drunk and beats on his wife. This is not kindness, this is not honoring someone, this is not someone who is not easily angered, this is not protecting someone. How about the woman who demeans the man she is with for her own wants and needs, always picking a fight to keep him unbalanced and digging up the past to keep old wounds bleeding? This is not patience, waiting for change. This is not kindness or honoring. It is definitely self-seeking, and it is easily angered. The record of wrongs is long and never forgiven and always come back in a fight. There is also no trust or hope. Lastly the dysfunctional family, where do we start? A complete failure in all categories is probably the best place to start. No patience, kindness, or honoring of people. It is also a relationship that delights in evil and drama.
"If you are the type of person that says, 'I do it on purpose just to make them mad,' shame on you, stop it, that is not love but a sick sense of delight in evil." ~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
Compared to Paul’s definition of love these relationships are solid fails and remember these are all quite common.
"Love buries the hatchet without leaving the handle sticking out." ~ Pastor Henry
This is what happens when a society or a world full of people have been lied to for so long about what love really is. The people in these relationships really think that they love each other, but according to our biblical standard, they are not even close. What do we do with that? How do we love imperfect people with a perfect love? We can’t without God’s help. Always remember, what is impossible for people is possible with God. Love is patient, it does not up and run every time something goes wrong. Love is not proud but is always hopeful for people to change their hearts. Love is always interested in how others are cared about, and love buries the hatchet without leaving the handle sticking out. When we have problems, and we will, resolve them together in a loving manner so that we don’t have to keep making the same mistakes over and over. If you are the type of person that says, “I do it on purpose just to make them mad,” shame on you, stop it, that is not love but a sick sense of delight in evil.
If you use this standard to determine your loving relationships, you will soon begin to tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy ones. Hopefully, we can use the same formula to mend what is broken before it is too late. God wants us all to have a loving relationship with Him and all of His children. Make every effort to right your wrongs when it comes to failed relationships so that less resentments and strife can be avoided along the way. Life is too short to fight, and it takes a lot of misdirected energy to hate. Pray for each other in this, that God continues to heal us and others so that we may increase the love in the world not the hate.
Now apply this love formula to Jesus Christ and His relationship with us. Jesus is more than patient with us as He waits for us to come to Him and to allow Him to heal us. Jesus is kind, even His modern-day critics can’t argue with that. Jesus does not envy or boast and if He was proud, He would never have allowed Himself to die on a cross. He does not dishonor others, in fact, He prayed for those who wished Him ill, praying while on the cross for God to forgive the people who put Him there. Jesus sought no glory for Himself, but directed all glory to His Father in heaven, and He was not easily angered. Yes, He tossed some tables in the Temple, but it does not say ever angered, but easily angered. Besides, this was not the first time that Jesus was grieved by the people’s actions in the Temple, so He had righteous anger towards those who were treating the Temple like a den of robbers. Jesus keeps no record of wrongs, when you ask for your sins to be forgiven, they are forgiven, period. Jesus never delighted in the evil that mankind was capable of, He was patient and merciful towards it, but He didn’t love it. He rejoiced in the truth that is the Word of God and the love and mercy it proclaimed.
God the Father loved the world so much that He gave us Jesus, His Son to save it. God’s love for us never fails. It always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, and above all God’s perfect love for us never fails.
You ask, “What is love actually?” I will answer with Paul’s words to the Romans 8:38-39,
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Thanks be to Almighty God. Amen.