The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins~ 1st Peter 4:7-8
The meaning of most words is clear. “No” is one of those words. All one needs is a passing familiarity with the English language to understand the meaning of the word “no”. There might possibly be some confusion over whether or not the person saying ‘no’ actually meant what they said. But there are no lingering questions regarding the meaning of the word.
The meaning of other words can be much tougher to clarify. It sounds a little crazy but it took me what felt like forever to explain to my very literal four-year-old daughter what a word is.
Just try and explain what a word is to a person with limited language skills. Spoiler alert: you will both be borderline insane before it’s all over.
Love is another word that can be insanely tough to define. Mostly because we live in a culture that has been diligently redefining it for decades. Love once meant a strong emotional attachment or bond to a person or thing. Love was also defined, as a demonstration of concern for the physical or emotional needs of another.
In recent years, love has been redefined to mean something altogether different: unconditional approval or complete agreement. Love has been redefined as tolerance and tolerance has been redefined, not as acceptance, but rather as “a whole-hearted celebration of another persons’ choices”. As a result many believe it’s impossible to love someone if you disagree with their choices, religion or worldview on any level.
Complicating the love issue further, our culture has made love it’s premier value, which is not a terrible thing, so long as ones definition of love happens to be in line with how the Bible defines love.
Even unbelievers agree that Jesus’ life defined what love is. However, Jesus’ love for humanity was far more complex than the warm-fuzzy, feel-goody tolerance for everything that passes for love today. Jesus’ love for humanity had three characteristics that test our modern-day understanding of love.
Jesus spoke the truth even when the truth was really hard to hear~
Jesus said things many today would construe as entirely insensitive and unloving. He regularly called the Pharisees out on their sin even referring to them as whitewashed tombs and a brood of vipers (Matthew 23). Jesus condemned those who refused to believe and repent (Matthew 11:21) he commanded the woman at the well to stop sinning (John 8). He also informed His Mother and brothers that they must believe in and obey God in order to be a part of God’s family (Matthew 12:50). Even His own disciples got called out on a fairly regular basis for their lack of faith and selfish attitudes (Matthew 8:26).
Jesus was not afraid to call people to a higher level of holy living~
In the book of Luke Jesus was approached by a wealthy man who obviously had it all together from a moral and religious perspective. He was so together ethically that he was able to look Jesus (the all-knowing son of God) in the eye and declare with a straight face that he had faithfully followed God’s commandments since childhood. Jesus did not give the man a fist bump, tell him how awesome he was or find a place for him on his leadership team. Instead Jesus acknowledged his goodness and encouraged him to take his virtue to an even higher level of holy living.
Jesus scared people~
Contemporary believers are very reluctant to discuss anything that might possibly be seen as scary or offensive. There is little that is more scary and offensive than judgment or hell, so we rarely discuss either. However, Jesus talked about judgment and hell all the time. Jesus was clear that judgment is coming (Matthew 25:31-46) and Hell is real and it’s a really terrible place (Matthew 24:15).
Loving like Jesus loved is far from easy. Jesus loved everyone unconditionally, He accepted them where they were at, treated them as friends, healed their diseases and provided for their physical needs. He was there when they were hurting, He even wept when they wept and mourned when they mourned. Then He took love a step further and told people the truth about life, death, heaven and hell. He was everything love ought to be and because of His love people found God and became all they could be.
We would be wise to follow His lead.