What do you truly know of love, beyond perhaps that it is the opposite of hate. Love is either an emotional state or an action, and when it is the second of these, it requires no emotional characteristics, it stands alone without the need for sentiment of any type.
The levels of this emotion of love are expressed in the Scriptures quite plainly, and I would highly suggest an in depth study of them if you have not already done so, today though in this letter to you, let us look only at the word itself and how it relates to the ongoing sentiments in our relationship to our brothers and sisters in Christ. To begin with though, the simplest order might be that you love your new coat, then perhaps your dog or cat, then your friends, who may or may not be put before your pets, that is of course at your discretion, your family, and as is in accordance to the Scriptures, your children and then your spouse. Far too many reverse these last two, and that is not only not wise, but will possibly become quite strenuous when the young ones are all grown up and gone off on their own.
Last of course is us, first of course is to be Christ, and all others after Him are decisions that can and will be modified as the relationships either grow or fade in their intensity as time and life continue. Friends move away, acquaintances are lost to time and distance, pets die and are replaced, family members can become too much of a burden emotionally, and so are left to their own devices, love is relative to the circumstances, and the amount of the love that we give is determined entirely by us. The general emotion of love is regulated by proximity, the closer we are geographically, the more we are able to express the emotion of love by our actions, the further away, the more difficult this can be, it is the reason that we congregate together as human beings, we need each other. But the love that we will share with any another is entirely our choice.
Far too many people live in dysfunctional families by their own free will, blaming the circumstances in the ability to love properly on the actions of one within the family group who is not adhering to the prescribed ideologies that the majority of the others believe to be correct. The cast out one, if you will, is never truly ostracized, for he or she will always be family, but the love is moderated until the errant one falls back into the acceptable pattern set by the others, in a sense, they are loved in the loosest term of the word, but not liked very well. This is not acceptable behavior within the Christian community though, those who truly are the children of God, all of our actions towards them are to be done in love, but too many have forgotten that love can be tough, hard to express in difficult situations, they have changed the ideology of the terms “reprove and correct” into one of “never offending,” and so there is a false, and even withheld love for these temporarily errant brothers and sisters.
Those who will not attend to the truths and commandments of the Scriptures towards these prodigal sons, these momentarily lost sheep, are causing in a sense more damage than those who have gone astray, for they fear the commandment to love when it involves strict discipline in love. Let’s put this type of love to a little test here for just a minute, let us say that you have heard a rumor that one of your brothers in Christ is addicted to pornography, you basically have three options in this scenario, you can forget that you heard this speculation, you can approach the brother in love and ask him directly if it is indeed true, or you can inform the pastor of the church of what you have heard, which of these do you believe is the most prevalent answer today?
Exactly, most will either keep silent or head directly to the hierarchy within the assembly and inform them, asking them to look into this possible dilemma. Now why is that, why will the majority of Christians today pass the buck, as it were, why not directly approach the brother in love with a question that shows him that you care? I know the general answer that most will give here, because it is not their place, they are not well versed enough in the situation, they do not want to take responsibility, and besides, the one who is sinning might take offence, all of these and more will be the excuse, but the real answer cannot be denied, because you do not love them enough to take action on their behalf. Your fear has kept you from loving.
We are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves, (Mark 12:31) but we have difficulty loving our own spouse in a continual and uninterrupted way, our repeated efforts to love our brothers and sisters in Christ are hindered only by our own selfish ideas of how we will be seen if we mention something to them that they may find offensive, this my friends is not the way of the children of God, but it is the path that far too many have chosen today. The possible pain of personal rebuke and reproach has deadened our love when we see a brother in Christ sinning, we are more concerned with our self that we are with them. “What will they think of me” has taken the place of “How can I help.”
I am seeing this more and more frequently these days, those who fear personal retribution have overtaken as the majority those who are willing to suffer reproach when love is what is required of them. The ability and desire to put self away and to walk with one who is performing against the will of God is much more common than the one who does not care what others think of him, his concern is for the one who is offending the Lord to come back to a right relationship with Him, not what he will be perceived as if he broaches the subject of sin. To reprove and correct have become, for the most part, a thing of the past, left to those who have assumed the responsibility for the congregation, to be spoken of only behind closed doors and only in whispered tones.
This lack of love is destroying the fellowship, it is one of the signs of the coming apostasy, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matt. 24:12) and what is part of that iniquity, it is the free will choice to not obey the Word of God and come alongside a brother who is sinning, to reprove and correct him, to leave it to others who are believed to be more capable in these areas, no matter what the sin is. We do not trust ourselves to love in this manner anymore, we fear, and so we do not love, we place the perceptions of ourselves above the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ when they need us the most. And what is worse is that we will not accept the blame for our actions, we will not hold ourselves personally accountable for this lack of love, this non-adherence to the commandments of Christ, “The woman that thou gavest me” is the cry of far too many these days.
We are loved with a love that we cannot begin to comprehend, one that will last for all of eternity, and this is the love that we are to continually show to our brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter the circumstances, no matter the consequences to ourselves. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35) Love doesn’t run off and tell the pastor to handle it, to check into a matter, love does not just get down on its knees and seek the face of the Lord, love gets up, puts on the shoes of the gospel of peace, and goes to the offending brother and loves him, in firm truth and resolve to get this matter cleared up, repented of, so that they can once again be in a right relationship with the Lord. Love my friends is not concerned with self.
When you begin to be concerned more about what others think about you than what the Lord thinks about you, then you have a serious problem. Some of you are thinking of quoting Matthew 7:5 here, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye,” but as may times as I have heard this, I have heard it understood incorrectly. First off, if you have first cast out the beam in your eye, then what are to you do? You are to then help your brother. Why do you think that the Lord allowed you to go through a difficult time in your life, why do you believe that you fell into that temptation that time, and then by the grace of God were taught how to bear it, do you think it might be because another brother or sister in Christ was going to have that same problem one day and you would there to help them? What if you have never had that beam in your eye, what if you can see quite clearly what the problem is, what the sin is, do you still have an excuse, are you going to spend more time trying to hide from the truth of what you are supposed to do, what you have been commanded to do, by then your brother could have been approached and loved with the firm truth of his error.
This word “offending” has got to stop taking the place of reprove and correct, or the action of love is going to be a thing of the past, all you will hear is that we are praying for you, and James 4:17 will be the path that far too many will continue down, excuses at hand for all to hear. “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” We need to stop being afraid of offending, or the love of not many, but most will become so very cold.