“15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17
These few sentences have shaken my world on more than one occasion. I go back to this thought time and time again when I struggle between my flesh and my new life in Christ. John commands us to not love the world, because in truth, we cannot love two things at once. It is imperative for us as Christians to know what true love looks like because we cannot fully love others until we understand what love is.
The world’s definition of love:
- Noun: An intense feeling of deep affection: “their love for their country”. (affection / fondness / darling / passion)
- Verb: Feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone): “do you love me?”. (like / be fond of / fancy / adore)
God’s definition of love (taken from 1 Corinthians 13):
- love is patient – (long suffering) Even when you feel like forcefully expressing yourself. Love bears pain or trails without complaint, shows forbearance under provocation or strain, and is steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity.
- love is kind – even when you want to retaliate physically or tear down another with your words. Love is sympathetic, considerate, gentle and agreeable.
- it does not envy – (is not jealous) especially when you are aware that others are being noticed more than you. Love does not participate in rivalry, is not hostile toward one believed to enjoy an advantage, and is not suspicious. Love works for the welfare and good of the other.
- it does not boast – (or brag) even when you want to tell the world about your accomplishments. Love does not flaunt itself boastfully and does not engage in self-glorification. Instead, love lifts and builds up others.
- it is not proud – (is not puffed up) Even when you think you are right and others are wrong. Love does not assert itself or become overbearing in dealing with others.
- it does not dishonor others – even when being boastful, rude or overbearing will get you attention and allow you to get your own way. Love conforms to what is right, fitting and appropriate to the situation in order to honor the Lord.
- it is not self-seeking – Biblical love is not selfish and self seeking. True Love does not try to fulfill its own desires, does not ask for its own way, and does not try to acquire gain for itself. Love, is an act of the will which seeks to serve and not be served.
- it is not easily angered – (or provoked) even when others attempt to provoke you or you are tempted to strike out at something or someone. Love is not aroused or incited to outbursts of anger. Love continues faithfully and gently to train others in righteousness, even when they fail.
- it keeps no record of wrongs – (thinks no evil) even when everyone seems to be against you or when people openly attack you. Love does not hold a grudge against someone. Love forgives, chooses not to bring up past wrongs in accusation or retaliation, does not return evil for evil, and does not indulge in self pity (yes, this goes for ourselves as well). Love covers a multitude of sins.
- love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth – even when it seems like a misfortune was exactly what another person deserved. Love mourns over sin, it’s effects, and the pain which results from living in a fallen world. Love seeks to reconcile others with the Lord even when it is easier and more profitable to lie. Love is joyful when truth is known, even when it may lead to adverse circumstances, reviling and persecution.
- it always protects, always trusts – even when other’s actions are ambiguous and you feel like not trusting anyone. Love accepts trustfully, does not judge people’s motives, and believes others until facts prove otherwise. Even when facts prove that the other person is untrustworthy, love seeks to help restore the other to trustworthiness.
- always hopes – even when nothing appears to be going right. Love expects fulfillment of God’s plan and anticipates the best for the other person. Love confidently entrusts others to the Lord to do His sovereign and perfect will in their lives.
- always perseveres – even when disappointments seem overwhelming. Love is tolerant, endures with others who are difficult to understand or deal with, and has an eternal perspective in difficulties. Love remembers that God develops spiritual maturity through difficult circumstances. This is one of the hardest to practice, especially when you think you just can’t endure the people or circumstances in your life. Love remains steadfast under suffering or hardship without yielding and returns good while undergoing trials.
- love never fails – even when you feel overwhelmed and the situation seems hopeless. Love will not crumble under pressure or difficulties. Love remains selflessly faithful even to the point of death.
It is plain to see why the word love can be so easily misinterpreted. Until Christ is the center of your world you will not know true love. There is a reason that John wrote verse 16. It is easy for us to get caught up in our personal desires and lusts for the things we think will complete us. In our lives outside of God we desire relationships and help others out of selfishness – because we want to feel loved or empowered somehow. These things merely fill a need, they are a means to an end that is untouchable.. even impossible to fulfill outside of Christ.
I dare say it is impossible to actually love the world or anything in it, since the true reality of love is only found in and from the Father. He poured out His love to us by giving us the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sin, creating the only way to be with Him eternally. This was the ultimate selfless act of love, to die. Love is a choice, and stems from the one choice we must make. By submitting to God you openly invite Him to change you from the inside out. You give Him permission to change your lusts into love for others because of the love He has so graciously given you.
“7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” – James 4
Love is the ultimate will of God for all of our lives. Without it we cannot help others to see clearly who God is. If our motivation for helping others is not for their salvation, then our motivation is not true love. If you tell your child not to ride their bike in the street what is your reason? You don’t want them to die at the mercy of a vehicle! You love your child and want them to be saved. Everything you teach them is because you want them to live, and to live well. This is love… but it is only a fraction as compared to the love God has for us when He saves us to live forever.
“True biblical love will not be a roller coaster ride….it will keep you confidently moving ever forward…steadily for the Lord.” – Cooper Abrams