Today I was doing a Google search that contained the word ‘love’ and saw some image results in the results page. I decided that it would be interesting to see how Google visually defined love, so I clicked into Google Images and searched for ‘love’. The results were very telling.
Most of the images were in shades of red, white, and black with almost every image containing a heart of some kind. Some images were light and fun while others symbolized more passionate, erotic love (I had the adult content filter engaged, so none of the images were too risqué). A number of images were sad, showing broken hearts or depicting young people in angst-filled, hormone-juiced infatuation.
None of the pictures captured the love I feel toward God, how I feel he loves all of us, or how I would imagine that God would illustrate his love for us.
Different Types of Love in the Bible
This compound Hebrew word used in Deuteronomy 6:5, where the Bible says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
This kind of love is in the Bible, but the Greek word eros is never actually used in the Bible. About.com refers to 1 Corinthians 7 as an example of eros love in the Bible.
The burning with passion that verse 9 refers to is written using the Greek word puroō. Puroō means to kindle, to be ignited, to literally glow, to be inflamed with anger, grief, or lust, and to be on fire. If you’ve been in love before, you know what Paul is referring to in 1 Corinthians 7.
In Romans 12:10, the Bible tells us that we should be affectionate toward one another with brotherly love. The word used there is philadelphia, just like the city of the same name, meaning ‘brotherly love’. This is similar to âhab ‘âhêb, at least conceptually in the Bible, because in Leviticus 19:18, when God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves, the Hebrew word used is âhab ‘âhêb.
This Greek word for love is used in John 3:16.
Unlike the other kinds of love, this is the kind of love that God uses.
How God’s Love Differs From The World’s Love
The world’s general feeling toward love is that it is a fleeting and fickle emotion- not always, but it can be. The world’s feeling about love is obviously not baseless. After all, the world is made up of US! We’re human. We’re fallible. When we get hurt, we can decide that we’re not going to love the person who hurt us anymore. We can divorce that person, move away, and hold a grudge that we take to our graves. We could go as far as to chalk this kind of love up to chemicals in our brains. Fortunately, that’s not how God loves, and that’s not the kind of love that we have to operate in.
God’s love is unconditional. There are no strings attached when it comes to how God loves us, and I can’t imagine anyone saying that’s a bad thing. Even an adamant Atheist would probably say, ‘Hey, I don’t think God is real, but if there was a God and he wanted to love me no matter what, cool!’ The problem is that people have a hard time believing that unconditional love really exists.
The closest thing to unconditional love that most people encounter is the love of a mother or father, but even our moms and dads make mistakes, and some people have had really crummy people as parents.
Bigfoot, Unconditional Love, and Other Elusive Things
People have trouble accepting God’s unconditional love because they rarely see it “in the wild.” It’s like Bigfoot. We’ve all seen pictures of what is supposedly Bigfoot, or the Loch Ness monster, or alien spacecraft, but they’re always really blurry or end up being proven to be something else. People have a hard time believing in these things with conviction because the majority of us haven’t seen them first-hand. I certainly haven’t.
It’s the same way with unconditional love. They’ve read stories about Jesus and how he was this really great guy who loved everyone, but they have yet to personally encounter God’s unconditional love.
You know what? That’s our fault as Christians.
Tough Love About Love
Christians as a people group have done a poor job of loving the world unconditionally. We can get behind a missions trip to some place where Christianity is a rarity because we think that they “don’t know any better” and somehow that makes them a better target for evangelism, but when it comes to the next-door neighbor who never mows his lawn, lives a noisy life, swears like a sailor, and has bumper stickers that would make your grandma’s hair stand on end if she knew what they meant, well… Christians haven’t done a good job of showing ‘that guy’ love. Instead, we tend to show him unconditional judgment.
People have a hard time feeling God’s love because they feel like they would need to clean themselves up before they even approach a house of worship or cry out to God for help. You know where they got that idea? Satan? Yeah, he’s more than willing to heap condemnation on their hearts, but the Church is largely to blame, and Satan uses the words and acts of Christians who don’t walk in love to drive people away from the real Gospel of love.
The world looks scornfullyon ‘turn or burn’ evangelism because it reeks of judgment instead of God’s unconditional love.
When the adulteress was brought before Jesus in John 8, did Jesus say, “Sweet, I haven’t gotten my daily stoning in. Guys, I get first crack at her since I haven’t sinned, but then y’all can join in. Sweetie, if you survive this, you can go to Heaven, but ya know, it’s not looking good. If I were you, I’d get right with me quick.”?
No, he said, “Has no one condemned you? Then neither do I condemn you.” He did tell her to leave her life of sin, but that was after he showed her compassion.
You might say, “Yeah, but that was Jesus. Of course he’s going to do stuff like that. It’s the church’s job to tell people the difference between right and wrong.”
The Ministry Of Reconciliation
First, I must give mad props to my brother, Scott Jackson. He gave a simply awesome message at Bethel Atlanta called Don’t Mix The Old With The New that just knocked my socks off. It still does, and I’m barefoot right now!
Scott Jackson lays out exactly what the ministry of reconciliation is and why it’s so critical. Leif Hetland also preached a great message at Bethel Atlanta, on the subject.
The phrase ministry of reconciliation comes from 2 Corinthians 5