What will it look like when our families are filled with God’s love? What do we need to do to engender True Love between Christian siblings and spouses and parents and children? Today AMBrewster wants to walk your family through the most thorough passage on True Love in the whole Bible.
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Welcome back to the conclusion of The Three Family Loves.
As I mentioned a few episodes ago, it’s impossible to even scratch the surface of the topic of Biblical love in a month of twenty-minute podcasts.
This is the stuff of sermon series.
But that’s not the nature of a podcast.
We only have the ability to get in, introduce the ideas, make practical application, and then encourage you to continue studying and deepening your understanding of the topic.
In regard to the topic of True Love, let me make couple suggestions and one anti-suggestion.
1. God’s Word is the single most important place you need to spend your time if you want to have a deeper understanding of love.
2. You can also consume resources created by men, but they have to accurately build on the biblical foundation and — like a pastor — help you know, understand, and apply the Bible’s teachings.
Too many times men like to make up their own stuff. They create philosophies and come up with theories that actually contradict the Scriptures when you take the time to compare them. Such works, no matter how popular or pithy, should not be trusted when they contradict God’s Word.
And, I’m sorry to say, that description accounts for most of the “Christian” books out there.
And here’s my anti-suggestion.
In episode 117, “Stop Trying to Buy Your Kids,” I expressed my beef with Dr. Gary Chapman and his book, “The Five Love Languages.”
I outlined a few of my issues with the book, but I also linked a fantastic little essay written Dr. David Powlison that biblically critiques Chapman’s work.
I don’t want to take a ton of time right now, but I do want to illustrate how important truly biblical resources are.
Chapman claims that the five love languages are “receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch.”
Now, may I use any of those concepts to communicate my love? Sure. If it’s in God’s best interest for my kids to spend quality time with my kids, then I need to do that. If it’s in God’s best interest for my wife to purchase her something, then I need to do that too.
But here are three issues:
1. These concepts are not outlined, illustrated, or commanded in Scripture.
2. They are derived from Chapman’s psychological research. That does not make them inherently false, but it does mean that his conclusion could be incorrect.
3. As I mentioned in episode 117, people can interpret any action as being a proof of love or a proof of no love.
Please allow me to quote myself:
“Just because I’m given a gift doesn’t mean the person loves me, and just because I give someone a gift doesn’t mean I love them.
“Now, the concept of giving gifts is extremely biblical. It’s very appropriate to proclaim II Corinthians 9:15: “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” We can and should find times to demonstrate our love with gifts. Romans 5:8 says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
“Gift giving is a Christ-honoring, biblical way to show love. But here’s the rub: The gift is not the love. The love is the love.
“Whether that love is accompanied by a gift or act of service or spoken with affirming words or enjoyed through physical touch or a special time, those are merely the fruits of love.
“To make my point, consider discipline and correction. Have you ever met a child with that love language?
“Hebrews tells us that God corrects those whom He loves. It’s the same passage that tells us that correction is uncomfortable. Most children don’t interpret our discipline as being loving, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is, and that they should interpret it that way.
“But they’re immature, so they need help understanding what true love is and seeing it even when they don’t feel it.
“The whole Failure Philosophy of using gift-giving as the sole means by which we express our love is immature. It grows out of the fact that we love getting things and we selfishly want people to pour into us so we can feel appreciated. And then we interpret all of that as genuine love. And for parents, this can become an equally selfish tool to accomplish our own ends.”
And all that selfishness is rooted in eros, not True Love.
So, though Dr, Chapman makes the accurate observation that people like receiving gifts or being touched and so on, he incorrectly assumes the following:
1. That certain actions and words communicate love better than others. Nowhere in the Bible do we have the principle. In fact, the biblical reality is that we need to do the loving thing even when the other person refuses to accept it as loving.
2. He assumes that actions and ideas are the languages through which we understand and share love. This is biblically inaccurate because love is understood through obedience to God’s Word. We don’t assume love because someone said something nice to us. We don’t assume love because someone spent time with us. We know a person loves when they’re consumed with doing anything and everything that’s in God’s best interest for me . . . whether I like it or not.
3. He assumes that these acts of love won’t be misinterpreted. Well, not only does the Bible contradict this, but casual experience makes this plane.
So, all of that to say, please be careful to what you listen and to what you read.
Alright, let’s jump into the Bible to see God’s definition of the language of love, and learn how your family can practically live out His True Love today.
For today’s topic we’re going to walk through the most thorough passage on True Love in the whole Bible.
As we saw last time, the Bible has a lot to say about True Love, but I Corinthians 13 has it all in one place.
Now, this may be a very familiar passage to many of you, but that’s why this discussion may be more important for you than for people who have never heard of I Corinthians.
It’s very easy for us to feel or assume our way through Scripture. But now that we have a better, biblical working definition of True Love, we can understand and apply it better.
So, I’m going to list and comment on the characteristics of True Love from I Corinthians 13:1-13.
The first point is the most important. Just like the bookends of the Ten Commandments perfectly encapsulate the other eight, the first few thoughts from this passage communicate that . . .
1. Love is necessary to make life work.
Verse one tells us, ”If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”
This verse teaches that communication doesn’t work without True Love.
You and your family really need to listen to episode 38. It’s called The Communication House, and it outlines God’s plan for all family talk.
Love is an integral part of The Communication House. In fact, it’s so important that pleasing God with our communication is impossible without True Love.
Now verse two says, “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
Here we learn that even religion doesn’t work without True Love.
And verse three tells us, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
This is interesting because it actually tells us that the Love Languages don’t work if I don’t have True Love. Excuse me, it teaches us that actions that appear to be the most loving things a person could do don’t work without True Love.
So, the big three — my communication, my faith, and my relationships — will all fail if I do not have True Love.
If you don’t learn anything else today, learn this: Life doesn’t work without True Love.
But remember, we’re not talking about the world’s understanding of Love. This isn’t some eighties love ballad or Disney song about how love makes the world go round.
Only True, biblical, Agapē Love will cause life to work the way it should.
Love makes my discordant cacophony make sense. It makes my faith into something. And it causes my relationships to actually produce something.
Otherwise, we’re just unintqelible nothings who gain nothing from everything we say and do.
That’s the grand, overarching reality of True Love.
Now, the rest of the passage basically proves that reality by listing out eight characteristics of True Love without which life doesn’t work.
And remember, all of these characteristics are in God’s best interest for the person you love all of the time.
And the first is . . .
1. Love is patient.
Verse two tells us that, "Love is patient,” and verse seven tells us that True Love “endures all things.”
Life doesn’t work if you’re impatient.
Do you want have real Love in your home? Do you desire to show God’s love to your family members?
Be patient. There will never be a time when biblical patience will be unloving.
Dad and Mom, you need to be patient not only when your little ones have a hard time tying their shoes, you need to be patient when it seems to take so long for your teen to mature into their shoe size.
Man’s anger does not achieve the righteousness of God. Impatience is merely a characteristic of selfishness. I want you to be ready now. I want you to be done now. I want this to be over now. I want that to be happening now.
I, I, I.
But True Love realizes that God’s time and God’s way are perfect. It’s doesn’t excuse sin; it will have to give consequences for sin, but it won’t respond impatiently because impatience is always selfish.
I Thessalonians 5:14 says, “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”
This verse gives us three categories of people that are well known for tempting us to be impatient: the people with weak spirits, weak minds, and weak bodies. And it commands us to be patient with them all.
2. Love is kind.
We learn this from verse two. ”Love is . . . kind;"
This is the only time this word is used in the New Testament, but the original word has the idea of “showing oneself useful.”
But the adjectival form of this word means serviceable, good, or gracious.
Kindness can basically be reduced to being useful.
If I’m in your way, I’m not being kind. I’m not being useful.
If I say something that is not gracious, I’m not being kind. It’s not useful.
Do you want to show True Love to your family? Be useful. Let your presence be a help and not a hindrance.
Only say and do those things that build people up. No tearing down allowed.
Ephesians 4:29 perfectly illustrates this when it says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
3. Love is humble.
Verse four teaches that "love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude."
Envy describes a zealous desire for something. It’s basically covetousness.
It’s unloving to envy your siblings later bedtime. It’s not loving to covet your sibling’s friends or grades or soccer skills or looks or relationship with mom and dad.
And speaking of parents, it’s not loving to envy someone else’s parents. And, on the flip-side, it’s unloving to wish your kids were like someone else’s.
There is nothing Christ-honoring about envy. It’s discontentment. It’s calling God a liar because obviously He messed up and should have given you something else.
The word translated “boast” is only used here, but it communicates self-display.
Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth.”
Someone with True Love is too busy thinking about the best interest of others and preferring others above himself to make sure everyone around him knows how cool he is.
If you want to grow in love toward others, you need to stop eros-ing yourself. Let your other family members praise you instead . . . if it’s in God’s best interest for you for them to do so.
The word for “arrogance” literally means to inflate. Arrogance makes us proud.
We could do a month of episodes all about pride, but Psalm 31:23 sums it up well when it says, “Love the Lord, all you his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.”
True Love and pride are diametrically opposed to each other.
And “rude” communicates acting in an inappropriate way. This word is also used only once on Scripture.
If it’s inappropriate, it’s not in God’s best interest for anyone!
A truly loving person will be humble. They won’t be envious, boastful, arrogant, or rude.
4. Love is selfless.
Verse five of I Corinthians 13 tells us, ”[Love] does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;"
This one is pretty clear. Selfishness cannot be found within a hundred miles of True Love.
It’s not about my way, it’s about God’s way for you.
If I’m easily provoked and irritable, it’s due to the fact that I have my own plans for how I want things to go and how I want people to treat me, and you messed with my plans.
I like the way the word “resentful” is translated in the New American Standard Bible. The NASB renders the word, “does not take into account a wrong suffered.” That’s quite a mouthful to translate one word, but that’s what happens when you want to be as accurate as possible.
The Greek Word logizomai has the idea of calculating or computing. If I am only concerned that I get my way, then I’m going to keep lists. I’m especially going to remember all the times you wronged me.
But True Love is selfless.
If you’re keeping lists, you’re flirting with bitterness. You need to repent of that and ask your family members for forgiveness.
5. Love is holy.
Verse five tells us, ”[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth."
If True Love wants God’s best for everyone, then there’s no way it could ever rejoice in wickedness and sin. The only thing that brings True Love pleasure is God’s absolute Truth.
6. Love is strong.
Verse seven teaches us that, ”Love bears all things, [and] endures all things."
It’s weighty to love. The people you love will have burdens and distresses. They’ll fail and need admonishment and care. They’ll trip and need to be lifted up. They’ll sin and need forgiveness.
The more you love, the more intimate your relationship. And — if we’re honest — the real us is a mess.
But God is all-powerful, and as He gives us the strength, we can bear up under the strain of loving people in a fallen creation.
The world uses these trials to justify leaving the relationship. That’s what eros does. Even phileō won’t last under the train of conflict and trial in relationships.
The reality is that there is no consistent, genuine hope for strife in relationships outside of God. The best for which the world can hope is that both people would selfishly come to the conclusion that it would be better for them to stay in the relationship than leave.
But that’s rarely what happens; and even if it did, the resulting relationship would either be a hothouse of contention or a den of apathy.
If your “love” falters when the person you love exposes their weakness, you love isn’t True Love.
7. Love is optimistic.
Verse seven also teaches us that, “Love . . . believes all things, [and] hopes all things.“
I consider myself an optimistic realist, but the reality is that we should all be sanctified optimists.
Mankind has nothing to celebrate, yet God loves us. He knows that through Him we can have life and godliness in abundance.
I’m not telling you to believe all things and hope all things because the person you love will never let you down, I’m telling you to believe all things because God will never let you down. If you love Him and believe His promise in Romans 8:28, then you know even the difficulty with your sibling or parent or child can be used by God to help both of you be conformed to the image of Christ.
Many times throughout Scripture we’re told that our hope is in Christ.
And the eighth characteristic of love is . . .
8. Love is eternal.
Verse seven also tells us, ”Love . . . endures all things.” And verse eight reveals that, “Love never ends."
And much the same way as the passage was started, Paul ends this description of love with an extended description.
Verses 8-13 read, “As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.."
Near the end of The Merest Christianity Series we discussed why it is that — while on this earth — faith is more important than love.
But the reality is that love is ultimately greater because love will never end.
Now, that’s not to say that the moment we express genuine True Love for someone, it’s impossible for that love to fade.
We learned last time that because of sin we can walk away from love. All we have to do is start being selfish and love disappears.
But, the nature of True Love is that it’s built to last. God is love. He’s eternal. Love is eternal. And when we exercise the love of God, there will never come a time that requires our love to die.
Now, I’d like to end today the way I started.
Please continue to study the doctrine of love. It will take all eternity for us to start to understand the greatness of our God. To think that a podcast series has everything we need to know is ridiculous, harmful, and playing right into Satan’s hands.
Knowledge puffs up. It makes us arrogant, and arrogance is the opposite of love.
Now, to be honest, at the recording of this podcast, I do not have a selection of works outside the Bible that I can recommend to further your study of love.
Lord willing, soon we will have some more valuable resources for you at TruthLoveParent.com. Perhaps even now, if you’re listening to this episode at a future date.
But I will suggest that a systematic theology would be a great place to start.
Also, please share episode and check out our episode notes on our blog, Taking Back the Family.
And, guess what? I’m changing my plans for our next episode. I made a promise way back when we were talking about eros that I would explain how eros is not a biblical, passionate love between husbands and wives.
I made the comment that romance flows from one of the other loves.
But I completely ran out of time to explain how it works, so the next episode is called “What is Romantic Love?”
Once again, I appreciate your time. I know there are many other things you can do with twenty minutes of your life and many resources you could be ingesting. Your dedication to TLP is valued and received with gratitude.
We do this because we genuinely, truly love God and your family. We want what’s in God’s best interest for each of you and are willing to do whatever it takes to help you fulfill His purpose in your life.
It can be done, and we’re here to help.
See you next time!
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