Recently, I have noticed a trend of believers hurting others while claiming to do it out of love. It can be seen in the churches, but even more prevalent, I see it on social media. What makes this so difficult to remedy is that it seems that those who are doing the hurting truly believe they are working out of love. I have been, and at times still am, guilty of these same hurtful actions. I used to justify it by saying that YHVH requires us to correct our brother, and that by doing that, I was acting out of love. But up until this study, I never truly understood what love really is; and through this study, I have learned that many times what I did out of “love” was truly done out of something opposite of love.
In Mark 12:28-34, Jesus gives us the greatest commandments. They are love YHVH your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:35-40 puts the two greatest commandments this way: to love YHVH your God with all your heart, soul, and mind is the greatest commandment; second to that is to love your neighbor as yourself. Then he ends by stating, ‘on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ How does all of the law and prophets hang on the two greatest commandments?
The ten commandments are as follows (I have abbreviated them for time):
- Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
- Thou shalt not make any graven images or any likeness of anything, nor bow down yourselves to them, nor serve them.
- Thou shalt not take the name of YHVH your God in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.
- Honor thy father and mother.
- Thou shalt not murder.
- Thou shalt not commit adultery.
- Thou shalt not steal.
- Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
- Thou shalt not covet.
The first four commandments show us how to love YHVH. The next five show us how to love our neighbor. The last one show us how to love both YHVH and our neighbor.
Think of a tree – or better yet, a grape vine. This grapevine has two branches. One branch is loving YHVH, and the other is loving your neighbor. The law and the prophets are the fruit of that tree, or what that tree produces. They hang on the branches. On those two commandments or branches, hang the entire law and all the prophets.
The Ten Commandments given at Mt. Sinai are not all of the commandments, nor are they the whole of the law. In Exodus 20, we are told that when YHVH made these statements to the children of Israel, He did so in a cloud, with thunders and lightnings, and in the voice of the trumpet that was exceedingly loud. This terrified the people so much that as soon as YHVH completed the Ten Statements – before He could even finish the law – they begged Him to stop, and to give all of the law to Moses. He did as the people asked.
The entire law is actually contained in the first 5 books of the Bible. It expounds on the first ten commandments the entire nation heard that day. When Jesus spoke of all the law to the scribe, he summed it up into two commandments. – Love YHVH your God with all your heart, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. Not only are those the greatest commandments, but truly they are the basis of all the commandments or the law. If you act in any way other than love towards your neighbor or YHVH, you have broken the law, and if you break any of the commandments, your actions are the opposite of love.
Understanding love had to come to me in the form of a friend asking me, “What is the opposite of love?” Most would respond, as I did, that hate is the opposite of love. Consider the love between a mother and her child. How does a good mother act towards her baby? She will put all of her wants and desires aside, and focus all of her attention on that child. Maybe she wants new outfit, but her love for her child compels her to buy something for that baby instead. Think about all the sleepless nights parents have to go through. Many wouldn’t trade their child for even one full night of sleep. This is love. Love gives selflessly. If love lavishes all on the object of love, then what is the opposite of love? What takes away attention from others? Selfishness.
Love – gives and is about others
Selfishness – takes and is about self
This is what scripture teaches. Jesus taught that love is shown by being a servant:
And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. Mark 9:35
And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45
Through this, Jesus gave the perfect example of love. Paul taught the same concept when he said that we must die to self, getting rid of selfishness.
But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; Ephesians 4:20-22
Paul was saying that if we know Jesus, and have been taught by him, we would know that he taught putting off the old behaviors and the old man. The old behaviors and the old man are corrupted by deceitful lusts – a type of selfishness that requires us to go after things we want instead after the things YHVH wants.
And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Ephesians 4:23-24
If we know Jesus, and have been taught by him, we would be renewed in spirit – spirit being our very breath: the way we live, the things we think about, our everything.
We are told to be renewed in our mind – not just what we think, but the way we think. We have been taught such things as “Do what makes you happy.” This causes your mind to constantly be looking for a reason to do the things you want or to lash out at others when things aren’t done your way. However, if we change the way we think, we start seeing that what we want can often times hurt others. By changing these things, we are putting on the new man.
This new man is always chasing after YHVH by being like Him – righteous and truly holy – and by looking to make Him happy. After all, aren’t we called to be the image of God? (The Third Commandment – Carrying His name in Vain, The Image of God) Next, Paul gives us a list of things that will help in putting off the old man, and putting on the new. As you read through this, look at how each point listed puts off selfishness and puts on love.
Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:25-30
How do we grieve the Holy Spirit? By putting the old man on, and refusing to put on the new man. By being selfish instead of loving, by giving place to the devil, stealing, ruining our witness with the things that come out of our mouth, and by doing the opposite of what the following verses say:
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Ephesians 4:31-5:5
With an understanding of the definition of love (selflessness)and how important it is, we can begin to apply this love in our lives and the lives of others.
Why is Love so Important?
1 Corinthians 13 lists three reasons love is important. The first verse explains how love is necessary if you want anybody to listen to what you have to say.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1
Imagine YHVH wanted me to tell you that you need to fix something in your life, or maybe He has something life changing for you to understand. What if at the time that I give you this vital message, I want you to see me as an all-important “man of God”. I do what I can to make myself look important, and I want to be sure that others see it too. What will your perception of me be? Are you going to take YHVH’s message seriously or is my selfish attitude going to get in the way?
Let’s look at this same situation in another light. Imagine that I see you have posted something incorrectly on a social media outlet. I have a correction, a truth you need to hear – information that really could help you – but I start pointing out how you are wrong. What if I tell you that because of what you said, you are an unbeliever? What if I say that God has just blinded you? How are you going to receive the truth that I have? Are you likely to correct yourself or are you more likely to get angry and defensive? Would you instead begin to list all the reasons why you are not wrong? Would you consider me to be a messenger of YHVH or an annoyance?
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2
Now let’s imagine that I have the gift of prophecy. Let’s imagine that I can understand all the mysteries in the Bible, along with all the working of YHVH in the past and can use those to point out His glory. Let’s imagine that I have all knowledge in how to use the understanding I have received. Imagine I have all faith that allows me to worry about nothing, and to obey YHVH implicitly. Now let’s imagine that instead of sharing this with others, I keep it to myself and use it to look down on those around me. Instead, I spew out hatred for others who do not share these gifts, because they should be in the same place I am spiritually. (Poor fools…) What does that make me? Paul says it makes me nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:3
Imagine that I give everything I have to the poor, but at the same time I make sure everybody knows my actions. Look what I have done! Aren’t I an amazing person? What if I even go as far as to have my body burned for the “good” of somebody else, but all the while, I do it so that I get the glory. What good is that going to do me? Will the people I am giving so much to see what I have done as a gift from YHVH, or will they see it as something done to make me feel better? Will they feel loved, or will my actions make them feel insignificant?
Can you see the difference in the results you can achieve when you have the right motivation? Does what you say and do come out of a desire to edify yourself? Do you say things because you want to be thought of as a smart person?Is it because you want acceptance? Do you want others to notice all the work you do so that they are amazed by you? Do you want the attention you could receive for helping others? Do you just want followers? With the wrong motivation, not only are we failing to love our neighbor, we are failing to love YHVH. Are your actions produced out of love or selfishness?
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. I Corinthians 13:1-7