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I’m your host AMBrewster and today we conclude — for now — our Family Love Series.
I say that we’re concluding the series “for now” because it’s impossible to even scratch the surface of the topic of Biblical love in a handful of weeks.
This is the stuff of life-long sermon series.
But that’s not the nature of a podcast. We only have the ability to get in, introduce the ideas, hopefully make some practical application, and then encourage you to continue studying and deepening your understanding of the topic.
Now, 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 True 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.
But 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.
So here’s my anti-suggestion.
In episode 117, “Stop Trying to Buy Your Kids,” I expressed my concerns 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’d like to include an additional resource in today’s episode notes as well. It’s called “A Kind Critique of the Five Love Languages” and beautifully addresses the man-made ideas that sneaked in.
Now, I can’t 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, is it possible to use any of those concepts to communicate my love? Sure. If it’s in God’s best interest for my kids for me to spend quality time with my kids, then I need to do that. If it’s in God’s best interest for my wife for me 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. Of course, that does not make them inherently false, but it does mean that his conclusions 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.
“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.’
Therefore, “Gift-giving [can be] 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 [the twin ideas of] 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.
Therefore, “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 learn that 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 also 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.
And . . .
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. Even I find myself saying things that aren’t completely faithful to Scripture, and I regularly try to search out and clarify those inadvertent lies.
All men must be tested and approved by the Scriptures before their words can be given any real weight in our lives . . . and that includes me.
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.
In order for our families to grow in our True Love, we need to better and better understand what the Bible says about it. So, today we’re going to walk through the most thorough passage in the whole Bible concerning True Love.
As we saw last time, the Bible has a lot to say about True Love, but I Corinthians 13 has a lot of 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 should be able to truly understand and apply this passage better than we ever could before.
Now, the first point from I Corinthians 13 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 never works 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 literally impossible without True Love.
Then 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 even the Love Languages don’t work if I don’t have True Love. Excuse me, it teaches us that actions that can 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 unintelligible nothings who gain nothing from everything we say and do.
That is the grand, overarching reality of True Love.
Now, the rest of the passage basically proves this proposed reality by listing out eight characteristics of True Love without which life doesn’t work.
And remember our definition of love as we work through these.
True love is wanting and working toward God’s best interest for the one you love. Each of the following characteristics is always in God’s best interest for the person you love.
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.
Children, you too must be patient with your parents when you think they don’t understand you.
Man’s sinful anger never achieves 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 priorities, 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.
Now, this is the only time this word is used in the New Testament, but the original word has the idea of “showing oneself useful.”
And 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.”
Are you a useful member of your family? Are you useful in your actions and words?
You will be when you recognize that . . .
3. Love is humble.
Verse four teaches that "love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude."
There are four words here that are the antithesis of humility.
A. The word “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.
Of course, 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.
B. The word translated “boast” is only used in this verse, but it communicates “self-display.”
But Proverbs 27:2 teaches, “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.
C. 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, D. The word “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 5 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 collection of English words to translate one Greek 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 and ledgers. I’m going to always be doing the relational math in order to figure out if I’m “being cheated.”
I’m especially going to remember all the times you wronged me.
But True Love is selfless.
Listen, if anyone in your home is 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.
Anyone in your home who enjoys things that God says are sinful is a person who doesn’t love the way they should.
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 will become. 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.
However, the World uses relational trials to justify leaving the relationship. That’s what eros does. Even phileō won’t last under the strain of conflict and trial in relationships.
But the reality is that there is no consistent, genuine hope for reconciliation 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 to 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, your 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 good to offer God, yet He loves us. He knows that — through Him — we can have life and godliness in abundance.
Now, 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 must be in Christ because only He can redeem our brokenness.
And the eighth characteristic of love is . . .
8. Love is eternal.
In verse seven we also learn that, ”Love . . . endures all things.” And verse eight reveals that, “Love never ends."
And in much the same way as I Corinthians 13 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 True 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 choose to walk away from love. All we have to do is start being selfish and the love will immediately disappear.
But, the nature of True Love is that it’s built to last. God is love. He’s eternal, therefore True Love is eternal. And when we exercise the love of God, there will never come a time that our love must die. It will only die as we choose for it to die.
Now, I’d like to end today’s episode the way I started.
I want to encourage you and your family to please continue to study the doctrine of love. It will take all eternity for us to even start to understand the greatness of our God. To think that one 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.
One thing you can do — if you’re new to the show — is to work through our nearly 500 episodes. Each of them desperately tries to unveil how we can parent in truth and love.
I pray they will be a valuable resource for you.
And please share this series with your friends. That would be a significantly loving thing to do.
And, if you’re studying this concept as a family, I encourage you to keep the conversation going. Post this list of love characteristics in your home and reference it throughout your days.
We’ll never love perfectly this side of heaven, and we need all the practice that we can get.
And if you think that your family is so unloving that you don’t know how to help fix the situation, please reach out to us at Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com or call (828) 423-0894.
We would love to help your family reconcile and start to exhibit True Love in your home.
And I hope you’ll join us next time as we once again open God’s Word to discover how to parent our children for life and godliness.
To that end, we’ll be discussing The Single Most Dangerous Influence in Your Child’s Life.
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