What is love?
That can be a hard question for anyone to answer. I think the church often struggles to answer that question well too. On the liberal side of things, a pastor might cite some poetry about love and say, “Love is everywhere,” which really, when you break it down seems to mean, “nowhere” and “nothing” because folks define love as they see fit.
If the pastor is conservative, it’s easy to define love saying, “Love is this or that,” and “You better do this or that,” because “If you don’t do this or that…you don’t love, and love is the law.” That pastor tends to define law as he sees fit, and then define love as he sees fit.
So…love is everywhere, intangible, impractical, liberal and nauseating as sin.
Or…love is specific, tangible, practical, conservative and impossible as a law that condemns you to death.
So, what is love?
Well, love is a mystery. And yet, we all feel the need to define it.
Some people say, “Love is not a feeling. You can’t command a feeling.” Love is a commandment; Love is a choice; Love is a commitment; Love is covenant; Love is a promise kept.
In Scripture, God makes a covenant with His children (Israel), and with His Bride (Jerusalem). And the terms of the covenant are LOVE, or I should say, a description of Love called the Law.
Through Joshua, God says, “Choose this day whom you will serve,” and Joshua (which is the Hebrew form of the word Jesus) says, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” And then he says, “But you all can’t choose to serve the Lord.” Isn’t that strange?
So, God makes a covenant with His people, and His people can’t fulfill the terms of the covenant. They can’t seem to love. We call that the Old Covenant. But God also made a new or eternal covenant, not with but FOR His people. And with that covenant, He fulfills the terms of the Old Covenant and ratifies the new and eternal covenant.
The point being, God is the Promise Keeper, and we are not promise keepers. God’s choice, God’s judgments, God’s faithfulness, God’s actions are incorruptible, but ours seem to be entirely corruptible.
So, if love is a choice, and love is incorruptible . . . well, love is certainly not our choice. And if love is a commitment, and love is incorruptible, love is not our commitment. And if love is an action, it’s not our action.
So, what is love?
Well, John just comes out and says it in 1 John 4:8 “God is love.” He doesn’t write, “God is loving,” as if love were something outside of God that could define God. He doesn’t write, “God is love and something else,” as if God were part love and part not love as if God were two and not one. He writes, “God is love.”
For some reason religious people are often quick to say, “Well, that doesn’t mean ‘Love is God.’” And truly, if I say, “Bacon is pork,” it doesn’t mean “pork” is bacon…because pork is a larger category than bacon. But what could be a larger category than God? And besides, who else or what else could bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things (as described in 1 Corinthians 13)? Who never fails? Only God.
So, God is love, and real love must be God.
Now, we may call things “love” that aren’t love or only partially love or tortured love…things like adultery and fornication. But if God is love, real love is God. So of course, Love is incorruptible; love is eternal; love is beyond our space and time. So of course, Love is a noun and a verb like God is a noun and a verb…perfect being and perfect action: “I am that I am,” and His Word through whom He creates all things.
If love is a feeling, it’s God’s feeling.
If love is affection, it’s God’s affection.
If love is passion, it’s God’s passion.
If love is something in the blood, it’s something in God’s blood.
If love is a choice, it’s God’s choice.
If love is a judgment, it’s God’s judgment.
If love is an action, it’s God’s action.
If love is a work, it’s God’s work.
And of course, we can’t define love.
Love defines us…and all things.
We can try to define love, but by Grace, we recognize Love.
God is Love, and Jesus is the Revelation of Love.
So, check this out you liberal Christians: Love is bigger than space and time, and Love is everywhere that’s anywhere. Love “binds everything together in perfect harmony,” as Paul puts it. But Love is not defined by you. Love is not vague or whatever you want it to be. Love is small and specific as a baby in a manger or a man hanging on a cross.
And check this out you conservative Christians: Love really is that baby in that manger, but He also bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. He was crucified: “once and for all,” but for all what? For ALL sin, in ALL space, for ALL time. Love is humongous.
This devotional was prepared by Peter Hiett’s assistant, Kimberly Weynen. It’s a compilation of excerpts from the full sermon titled “Love Incorruptible.” It’s a great sermon. I hope you can read, watch or listen to it in full here: http://relentless-love.org/sermons/love-incorruptible/
*Discussion questions are available here: Discussion Questions “Love Incorruptible”