The Bible is extremely clear that the relationship between the LORD and His people are always portrayed as a love relationship between a man and his wife. Jesus himself referred to it on numerous occasions while on earth. The book Song of Solomon can be read with this in mind, and a whole new world would open up to us.
We are taught by almost everyone that we must love the LORD and our neighbour, but we still find intolerance between Christians from different groups and congregations. This same intolerance is even evident between a man and his wife, where sometimes not even a trace of love is to be seen in this relationship, and we find that they only live together because they do not know how to separate, or do not see their way clear to go their separate ways.
How does one demonstrate love?
This subject had me troubled for a number of years. John gives us the answer in 1 John 4 verse 20: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” This passage declares that we show our love to God by loving our neighbour. But how do I show my love to my neighbour? Is it by just saying to him: “I love you?” John also gave us the answer to this question in verse 10. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” This scripture informs us that God proved His love to us by giving Jesus to die in our place, so that we can live. In other words, He served us with an undeserved gift. And it was the best gift he, the Father, could give. He did not skimp, but He gave His only, His everything. That is love. To do or give something to someone without being asked, or without that person deserving it.
If we look at the love of the LORD, we find that the sun rises every morning, the rains fall, and the seed brings forth its food, and so the whole of creation is maintained. The LORD does everything without us deserving it or even asking for it. He serves us with His gifts. This is what love is: To serve someone with gifts without that person asking for or deserving it.
If we decide to apply this principle between my neighbour and me I cannot turn a blind eye when I see him without food or clothes, or any other shortfall. I have to serve that person with my gift without being asked. This confirms the scripture in Matthew 25, where Jesus says that He will tell those on His right to enter into heaven because they showed their love to others, and therefor to Him, whereas those on His left is sent to receive the eternal damnation, for not showing their love.
How do I manage to show this kind of love? It happens as soon as I enter into a covenant relationship with the LORD, and not have to fear eternal damnation. John describes it as follows in verses 17 and 18: “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” I must realise that I can only call myself a child of God because I received His love, only because He bestowed His gift of everlasting life through the new covenant on me, without me deserving it.
There are so many people and congregations that teach their members that they only have to make a decision to serve the LORD, and then they are declared children of the most high God. In the more traditional churches a person only has to decide to follow their teaching and be confirmed as a member to become a child of God. In the more charismatic churches the person only has to pray this prayer with the pastor or the person who made the altar call, and then you are a child of God. Both of these methods leave the love of the LORD out in their approach, and hence make it impossible to live a life of love.
What do I actually mean? I can only experience the love of God when I know that I need a redeemer due to my sinful nature. I must know that only through what Jesus did can I stand in a righteous relationship with the Father. Then I will know that I do not have to fear the judgement day, and will it motivate me to show His love to my neighbour. The passage where Jesus told the disciples that we must love our neighbour will then make sense to me as I will know that I am no better than anybody else, as we all deserve death. But only through the love of Jesus can we live.
But who is my neighbour? I believe the closest neighbour we have, and one that we tend to forget about, is our spouse. That is the first person I must show my love to. You may ask if it is the same love we have to show to our spouse as the love that we have to show our neighbour. My answer is yes. The same principle still applies. I have to serve my spouse with my gifts without them having to ask for or deserve it. If I as husband want to fulfil the role as priest of the household, then I have to know that the role is not to boss everyone around, but to serve everyone. The priest in the Old Testament had to prepare the sacrifice, cook and serve it to the person who brought the sacrifice. I always have to put my spouse’s interest above my own. I have to respect my spouse and expect to serve them with my gifts.
I have seen it many times that men decide to accept the role as priest in the house, and then the trouble starts. He now has to approve everything in the household, and mommy does not move without him approving it, and as he is being held responsible, the trouble starts. Then the husband decides he is the boss, and everyone has to spark as soon as he snaps his fingers. Or even worse, he now definitely does not have to listen to his wife, as he is the boss. Even if she asks for something, she is ignored, as he has never listened to her before, so why should he do it now. Or he dominates to such an extent that she either doesn’t make any suggestions anymore, or he would do just the opposite of what she suggests. But as we have seen from the scriptures above that we must show our love by showering our gifts on them. That is true love. The same applies to the wife. How many relationships are there where the wife shouts like a real army corporal and everyone in the household has to spark. That is not love. Love means that I must bestow my gifts on my spouse at all times, even to the point of trying to outdo my spouse without keeping score. I must put the requirements of my spouse ahead of my own.
Paul states in the first letter to the Corinthians that the man is not in charge of his own body, and neither is the wife in charge of hers. That is love. When your spouse seeks affection that you will give yourself to him or her. We have to remember that there are limits. Maybe I will treat her to such an extent that she would want me to seek affection. But it requires real love. Then I will realise that I can only show my love to the LORD, by loving those that He loves.
Jesus takes this love one step further, by saying we should love our enemy. That is even more difficult than loving your family and those that love the LORD. I have to ensure that my enemy can see that I love the LORD, by showering my gifts on them.
How do I show my love to the LORD? By serving my neighbour, and my enemy with love.
Why don’t we see it today? I believe we are not told what true love is, as well as the fact that the church does not teach true love. Charles Finney wrote the following in Revival Fire: “I have already intimated that pains enough had not been taken to search the heart and thoroughly detect and expose the sinner’s depravity, so as to make him see the need of the gospel remedy. If I am not mistaken, there has been, in many cases, an error committed in urging sinners to submission before they are prepared to understand what true submission is. They have been urged to repent, before they have really understood the nature and dessert of sin; to believe, before they have understood their need of Christ; to resolve to serve God, before they have at all understood what the service of God is. They have been pressed to make up their minds to enter immediately upon the service of God, and have been taught that they needed only to make a resolution to obey the Lord. Hence their religion, after all, has been only a religion of resolutions, instead of a religion of faith, and love, and of a broken heart. In short, it appears to me that, in many instances, the true idea of what constitutes pure religion has not been developed in the mind, and that consequently spurious conversions have been distressingly numerous. I have been more and more surprised from year to year, to find how very numerous those professors of religion are who manifestly have not the true ideal of pure religion before their minds. It seems that, in many instances, the idea that love is the essence and the whole of religion, is left almost, if not entirely, out of view.”