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Love: What It Is and Is Not

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Love: What It Is and Is Not

People talk endlessly about love, but what is it? Where can it be found?

Learn the why behind the headlines.

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People talk and fantasize about it. Radio talk shows and psychologists give advice on how to deal with it. Newspapers carry syndicated columns in which people seek advice about it. Musical groups and performing artists make millions of dollars singing about it. Dating services claim they can help you find it. Restaurants, bars and various well-traveled cities cater to it. Religions across the world claim to have it and preach their viewpoint of what is involved. Hollywood tries to define it through movies and television.

Despite all the talk, expert advice and the desire of so many to find real love, just what is it and where can you find it?

Modern Dating

Since most associate the term love with romantic relationships, several new trends in dating have appeared. Computer dating services now offer a sophisticated method of matching people based on questionnaires measuring compatibility. Without talking to or in some cases even seeing the other party, one can be matched with a list of possible candidates for a date.

Speed dating is another trend for the “do it now” generation of professionals with busy, upwardly mobile careers. In Arizona, participants of this trend took a bus ride around the Phoenix metropolitan area. As the bus made its stops, the men would move to a different seat and have a few minutes to get acquainted with each woman. The trip eventually allowed all participants to interview each other. Many were divorced, hoping to find someone for a new relationship.

Is this a formula for finding true love?

The World Around Us

As we go about our daily routines, the disregard for the welfare of others is apparent. The daily commute to work now includes the hazard of road rage, in which innocent drivers are injured in accidents or die because of the uncontrolled anger of others. Travelers are sometimes shot during daily rush hour in major cities across America. Disregard for speed limits, vulgar hand gestures from impatient drivers, and tailgating to intimidate others is a natural by-product of the self-centered mindset of many.

Of course, physically fit drivers routinely pull into a handicap parking space—defying the law for their convenience, thereby denying a person in need the benefit of the space.

Shoplifting has increasingly become a way of life. The cost of purchasing food, clothing and other goods is dramatically increasing partly as a result of theft. Increased security personnel, more sophisticated monitors and detection equipment, and increased insurance costs to cover theft contributes to higher prices for everyone.

Video games consume the time and energy of many and are especially popular with the younger generation. Major themes found in video games are explicit violence, war, gang-related activities and brutalizing of opponents. (Television and movies produced by Hollywood also contain these themes and with ever-increasing intensity.) Players are programmed to beat the other team or to annihilate the enemy, which leads to bitter, disrespectful, uncaring attitudes outside the games, which can permeate the player’s life.

Today’s “me first” lifestyle shows a profound lack of concern toward others.

Found in Marriages and Families?

A USA Today article—“Divorce Is Declining, But So Is Marriage”—revealed a disturbing trend in the United States: “Couples who once might have wed and then divorced are not marrying at all, according to The State of our Unions 2005. The annual report, which analyzes Census and other data, is issued by the National Marriage Project at New Jersey’s Rutgers University.”

“Cohabitation is here to stay,” says David Popenoe, a Rutgers sociology professor and the report’s co-author. “I don’t think it’s good for us, especially for children,” he says. “As society shifts from marriage to cohabitation—which is what’s happening—you have an increase in family instability.”

The report offers other disturbing facts regarding marriage in the U.S. “The USA has the lowest percentage among Western nations of children who grow up with both biological parents, 63%.”

Mr. Popenoe stated, “The United States has the weakest families in the Western world because we have the highest divorce rate and the highest rate of solo parenting.”

Children are becoming the victims of failed marriages—in some cases, even being blamed for their parents’ divorce. The emotional toll on children from broken homes or raised by a single parent is incalculable. Emotional problems, juvenile delinquency and drug dependency or addiction are often found when a loving environment is absent.

In addition, many children are now born outside of marriage, while others are abandoned instead of being nurtured in a secure environment that would allow them to bond with family.

Statistics show that a large number of American families are failing to build lasting relationships.


In Politics…Sports…Business?

Candidates for the last congressional election spent much of their time casting doubts about their opponents’ ability to govern. Many used slander, twisted facts and outright lies to project them in an unfavorable light, putting them on the defensive.

The funeral of a 19-year-old shot for allegedly trying to “carjack” a taxi.
Road rage
A woman who underwent reconstructive surgery after being shot in the face by her boyfriend.

Accusations and digging up past faults of others seems to be the “political” way. One high-profile national newscaster lost his job after bringing unsubstantiated charges against the U.S. President.

And then there is the sports world, in which violence and a “win at all costs” philosophy are becoming dominant. Basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, football and motorcar racing have all seen an increase in aggressive behavior.

In December 2006, the National Basketball Association ejected 10 players for violent behavior following a hard foul in a New York Knicks/Denver Nuggets game; large fines and suspensions followed.

Baseball, America’s national pastime, has suffered from controversy over the use of performance-enhancing drugs, used by some to gain an advantage over other players competing for the same position, or in the pursuit of breaking records.

Recently, NASCAR racing teams have been fined for cheating. Even before the renowned Daytona 500 race began, team leaders and drivers were fined, suspended or had points taken from their standings for tampering with their cars in violation of the rules in order to get an edge over other racing teams.

In 2006, drivers deliberately ran into other drivers to bump or knock them out of races. Bitterness, foul language and fighting followed!

In collegiate sports, gambling, point-shaving schemes, and illegal recruiting of athletes are commonplace. Athletes routinely receive preferential treatment, access to academic tests and “bonus” money to further their unique status as modern “gladiators.”

Whatever happened to character-building as a theme in athletic programs at high school and college levels?

Now consider the business world, which has been rocked by scandal after scandal over the past few years: the “dot com” crash—Enron in bankruptcy—insider trading—numerous corporate officials defrauding the stock-buying public. A few have been indicted and sent to jail for lying and stealing from stockholders. Many have committed perjury to cover up misleading information regarding the true status of their financial portfolios. Investors, in some cases retirees, have lost their life’s savings.

Deceptive advertising is commonplace in the competitive, worldwide economy. Slanting the facts, failing to deliver on promised benefits and smearing the competition is “business as usual” throughout the world.

When we analyze this world, with its various cultures, families, politics, sports, businesses, its military campaigns and general lifestyle—we see little love anywhere. So the questions remain, “What is love? Where can we find love?”

The True Source of Love

To most people, love remains a mystery. It is rarely compared to anything other than a physical/chemical attraction between a man and woman.

Before continuing, we must state that people sometimes do express love between each other. For example, those who lay down their lives to save others, such as the brave actions of a college professor during the Virginia Tech massacre.

A mother’s love for her child is perhaps the greatest expression of love among human beings. Yet even the love of a mother is ultimately based on self interest: a mother is naturally more concerned over her own child than someone else’s. The love human beings exhibit is, at best, a mixture of selflessness and selfishness.

But the love of God is different.

A best-selling book read by multiple millions, but understood by only a few, offers insight into the subject of true love. The Holy Bible plainly states that the Creator is the Author of love. In fact, “God is love” (I John 4:8, 16).

If this is so, then how does God demonstrate His love? What are the requirements to receive it?

John 3:16 is one of the most well-known Bible verses in the world: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Thus we begin to see the nature of God’s love: He gives.

In Matthew 22:35-40, Jesus Christ distinguished two distinct areas of love: (1) toward God and (2) toward fellow man.

This is reflected in the Ten Commandments: The first four reflect love toward God (Ex. 20:2-11); the last six reflect love toward mankind (vs. 12-17).

“Love is the fulfilling of the law”

Many people talk about loving God and claim that they are in harmony with Him. However, the real test of one’s love for God was written by the apostle John. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His Commandments: and His Commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3).

The apostle Paul wrote, “For he that loves another has fulfilled the law. Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:8, 10).

God even expects people to love their enemies: “You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully [spitefully] use you, and persecute you” (Matt. 5:43-44).

When someone has been wronged, human nature influences people to retaliate, whether verbally or physically. Yet doing so breaks God’s Law: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).

Instead, God expects a different approach: “Therefore if your enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (vs. 20-21).

But how often do people or governments “turn the other cheek”?

Love’s Unique Characteristics

The Bible further defines love in I Corinthians 13—commonly known as the “Love Chapter”—with detailed characteristics, stating that love (charity)…

  • Is patient and tender toward others (vs. 4)

  • Is not jealous of others (vs. 4)

  • Does not brag about its own accomplishments (vs. 4)

  • Is not arrogant or proud (vs. 4)

  • Is never rude or discourteous (vs. 5)

  • Does not promote self above others (vs. 5)

  • Is not easily offended or quick to become angry (vs. 5)

  • Does not keep account of evil or impute evil motives (vs. 5)

  • Does not rejoice over lawlessness (vs. 6)

  • Rejoices when truth triumphs over deceitful ways (vs. 6)

  • Endures without revealing what distress is taking place, is eager to believe the best, is always hopeful, and remains patient, even in persecutions (vs. 7)

  • Love “never fails” (vs. 8)—it is never out of use, and always motivates a person to act in another’s best interest.

God’s Word reveals that love is the greatest attribute one can possess, the highest standard one can achieve.

Imagine! What if nations applied this standard of excellence when interacting with other governments? What if sports teams, politicians, businesses, families and individuals set their focus on measuring up to God’s standard of outgoing concern for others?

Certainly, this world would be dramatically different! War, terrorism and all other acts of violence would cease. Bitter sports rivalries would disappear. Divorce and subsequent broken families would be a thing of the past.

Sadly, this is not the reality! And what lies ahead for a world that practices breaking all of God’s laws is leading all nations and individuals along a path few understand as a form of love: correction!

Correction is Love

In a world that tolerates and condones the breaking of civil and national laws, few understand the importance of correction. And fewer still realize that correction and penalties will follow the breaking of spiritual laws that govern this violent world, even if they choose not to acknowledge them. Humanity will not recognize the authority of God’s supreme spiritual law of love—the Ten Commandments—until they are one day forced to do so.

The prophet Isaiah foretold of a soon-coming chain of events in which God will correct this world. Isaiah 13:11-13 states, “I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity [lawlessness]; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible [tyrants]. I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of His fierce anger.”

This present evil world has a rendezvous with correction from a loving, concerned Creator!

The ever-living, supreme God loves the world (i.e., the people in it), but abhors their loathsome behavior, which brings hurt, pain, suffering, torment, disease and hatred. As a loving Father, God must correct His children.

Hebrews 12:5-6 states, “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks unto you as unto children, My son, despise not you the chastening [discipline] of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked of Him: For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”

Christ told the New Testament Church, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Rev. 3:19).

Those who heed correction are brought back into harmony and obedience to God’s Law—the law of love.

When people accept correction and obey God’s Law, benefits such as peace, contentment, joy, prosperity, trust and a lack of fear become a way of life.

One of the greatest concerns and fears of this modern world is terrorism. This, too, will be eliminated when obedience to God’s Law produces love. Notice how the apostle John expressed this understanding. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love” (I John 4:18).

In this war-filled, crime-laden world are fearful, confused, displaced people unable to make sense of what is happening. Keeping God’s law of love will correct the confusion and bring understanding and meaning to life.

Job, who was corrected by God for a spiritual deficiency in his life, stated, “Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects: therefore despise not you the chastening of the Almighty” (Job 5:17).

God’s love, which includes correction, will eliminate fear in the near future. Love overcomes fear and restores joy and peace of mind.

Who Has Love?

Most do not understand love, though they may offer platitudes about their love for their brothers while cursing those who are their real or supposed enemies. Many people profess their love for others, but do not live God’s way of give.

Who then has love?

I John 2:4-5 states, “He that says, I know Him, and keeps not His Commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keeps His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected.”

God’s love is available to those who keep His Commandments and live their lives according to His truth, contained in His Word. II John 5-6 states: “…but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after [according to] His Commandments.”

A World of Love Coming Soon

There is hope for this love-starved, dying world. The good news is that a new, world-ruling government will be established, and will enforce the laws governing love across the entire earth. Humanity will finally experience the peace and prosperity for which all desire.

Imagine a world in which parents are honored and honorable—no murder or war—no adultery, only faithfulness in marriage—no stealing of any kind—no lies or bearing false witness—a world in which no one covets or lusts after the property of others.

Further, imagine a world in which God is supreme—in which all false gods are forgotten—a world in which God’s name is mentioned in utmost reverence and He alone is worshipped. That would be a world of love!

Isaiah recorded this advance good news: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6, 7).

Humanity will come to understand and experience genuine love when Jesus Christ returns and establishes a world-ruling government over all inhabitants on earth. That is truly the best news!

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