What is love, and what shall we do with it? Inserting the word ‘do’ implies activity of a most meaningful sort.
But posing that question, I wonder if I am not beating a drum in a world that is increasingly more attuned to the pitch of brass instruments and cymbals, metaphorically speaking. For it is most often queried from either a philosophical or emotional position.
As language increasingly melts into an indecipherable stream of multi-shades of oil and water, attempting to find universal flow while unable to mix but only mingle, how can the cipher of “love” find a comprehensive understanding of meaning?
Moreover, this becomes the case though the subject is narrowed within the limited range called Biblical, or Bible-based love. Even though it may apply to all humanity within all interactions toward others of the same kindness. The word “love” has split into so many splinter-pictured factions and broadened into far-reaching extensions, which can only be described as wilderness approximation.
It can be as trying to describe viewing a collage within a kaleidoscope before the image changes once again. With this deterioration of language, the word “love” has less impact of meaning than the lost clarity of the word “honor” or “self-respect” or “integrity.”
The image by mentioning the word love should bring about the mental sound of varying tonal chimes. It has taken on an overall dull thud — much like a hammer against lead — less like the delicate movement of a wand lightly striking a triangle in musical tone, which, in times past, it had; to varying degrees, but it was there.
Much as the language is deteriorating and formerly poignant words such as “love” are being changed, stretched shapeless, and loss of meaning, we can regain certitude in the “however, forever.”
However, forever –
The Bible Has not changed.
Only people’s unstable opinions about anything change.
Cultural changing opinion, whether significant or slight, has no effect whatsoever on the veracity of the Bible’s unchanging overall meaning and message. It was conveyed to the original messengers, passed through generations, being reaffirmed by the Giver of all good things.
That case is as stated and confirmed. Biblical love, also, has not altered its meaning. Therefore, I present this passage from the book (epistle) of James for your rumination.
A case for love by an exhibition of its opposite:
“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:1-3) [This is self-love, not self-less love]
James opens chapter four of his epistle with a rhetorical question. He asks, from where do conflicts and arguments with others originate?
They come from our self-centered lust and desires, stemming from a heart still focused on the world. James is carrying on the same line of reasoning from the previous chapters. Because the self-centered desires and lust to which James is referring, stem from a heart not entirely given over to the Lord. From a heart not sensitive to the Holy Spirit, but instead overly influenced by the fallen world in which we live. From hearts attuned to world-wisdom, human-centered, created by a world which is at enmity against God.
In verse one, James first makes it clear that he is speaking to the church when he says, “from among you.” Then he uses the words “war” and “fights.” The term for “wars” is the *Greek word “polemos,” and the word for “fights” is the Greek word “mache” (makh’-ay).
The word “polemos” is where we get our modern word “polemic,” and it means to attack or be in a constant state of war. Always on guard, ready and waiting to make the next attack. And the word “mache” means a personal attack or hand to hand combat against a single person. With these words used together, James is painting the picture of church members, each one individually in a constant state of readiness. Ready to attack their fellow brother and sisters in Christ. But why? Why is this happening amongst fellow believers?
James tells us why, as he holds up a mirror to our own faces so we can see ourselves. It’s because of our self-centered desires. The *Greek word James uses is “hedone,” from which we get our modern term “hedonism,” which refers to the pursuit of self-indulgence, self-gratification, and pleasure. In other words, James is confirming what he told us in chapter one. That our sinful desire gives rise to sinful thoughts which give birth to sinful actions and a sinful attitude. And what’s essential for us to understand, is James is referring to the end result of those who do not submit to the will of God in most, or many, instances and behavior patterns of daily living. Those who are not obedient to God and those who do not follow the advice given by James in the previous chapters.
James is describing the actions of someone who has not fully turned their life over to Jesus. Someone who does not follow the promptings or the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Apparently, those who reject or ignore — or have a minimum understanding of — the authority and leadership of God’s word. Therefore that person displays the works of a life given over to following the worldly habits of hypocrisy (the “world” being the institution that breeds and fine-tunes the art of duplicity). A life of relying on the world’s wisdom, which is saturated with the influence of Satan whom the Apostle Paul calls “prince of the power of the air” in Ephesians chapter six.
It can be summed up in the questions: Who are we committed to? Who will lead us? Who do we love — above all others?
We can’t just will ourselves to be more loving or patient or kind, it has to be a heart makeover. We need to lean into God more, understand his heart and ask him to change our heart in the areas where we lack.
See I Corinthians 13:4-7; Galatians 5:19-26. How do those two passages correspond with what James is saying here?
The Father’s Deep, Abiding Love for us has never, will never, change in meaning toward us, we who abide in Christ.
*Notes: Greek word meanings may be cross-referenced in “Strong’s: Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.” Also, “Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, with Greek word index.”