The Apostle Paul tells the Church at Philippi, “It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (1:9-11).
Love has fallen on hard times. I speak not of the music and entertainment industries which have long equated love with sex; we are accustomed to that. I speak of the way love has been more subtly perverted by the world’s gospel. This pagan gospel is quite simply that love is personal and therefore under the control of persons. It concerns the way they feel about each other, and being a completely subjective experience, is not subject to the judgement of anyone else. Thus, love is a feeling. It comes and goes and takes various shapes and sizes; it is quite amorphous, and its definition is subject only to those “in love.” Love, any love, regardless of its expression between persons is regarded thus as “true love,” for it is “true” for them. So, not only is love perverted but truth as well and so must be dragged down the same slough of relativity which encompasses this pagan and false understanding of “love.”
Though I do not deny that love is celebrated between persons and encompasses emotions, I deny that such is the definition of love. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” indicating that love is obedience (John 14:15). And though it is popular among devotees of pop culture to picture Jesus as an itinerant hippy playing the mandolin and leading rounds of kumbaya with his disciples at campfires, he could actually be quite stern: “Go and sin no more,” “Sell all you have and give to the poor,” and his first sermon, “Repent! For the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” I have failed to find a single, “Smile, God unconditionally loves you,” anywhere.
But returning to where I started above with Paul and his beloved Philippians, Paul prays that their love may abound with knowledge and discernment. Did you hear that? Knowledge and discernment, not feelings and passions. In the Scriptures, love is INFORMED; it is not a shapeless, formless, “whatever I want to do which is meaningful to me and whomever I choose to be with.” Because our hearts are “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9), we require the word which tells us what love is, which is obedience to the heavenly word in the Scriptures which in turn leads to greater knowledge of that sure and true way to godliness and purity. In sum, the gospel of Jesus Christ knows nothing of an uninformed, or rather ill-informed, love which I get to fill with my own meaning leading to self-fulfillment; love’s goal is not my personal satisfaction but godliness through knowledge of his word and obedience thereunto.