by Rayola Kelley
This is the month we begin to speak about that emotion or feeling that makes the world go around. We consider this “so-called” feeling in light of sentiment, romance and hopeful expectation. Each of us should recognize the bewitching feeling I am referring to: love. Although we dedicate a day in February to the concept of love, it happens to be a very popular subject no matter what time of the year. How many TV shows, novels (including Christian novels), songs, and themes use the platform of love to stir up our emotions, imaginations and expectations?
As you consider the presentation of love according to this world, you realize that it stirs up emotion, passion and lust, but it lacks enduring substance. As Christians, we must consider what the world’s love lacks, to establish a right perception about the love of God. Sadly, substance is also missing from the presentation of love in much of the Christian realm.
As we consider the love of God, we realize that it is not some emotional wave of passion, or some temporary feeling of euphoria; it is commitment. The cross of Jesus definitely gives us insight into the level of our God’s commitment. Commitment speaks of binding oneself to a matter. God actually obligated Himself to saving us. Such commitment speaks of sacrifice.
Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection became God’s pledge to those who would receive His provision of eternal life by faith. However, we must receive God’s love. This requires us to come to the cross of Jesus by faith, open up our heart, and receive God’s provision (Romans 10:9-10).
There are other aspects about God’s love. In fact, these virtues are what cause God to make such a pledge to each of us. It is what gives the love of God authority. One of these virtues is His holiness. God is holy and He could not accept us on any other basis than redemption. Redemption points to being bought back and our sins remitted and forgiven.
The one thing I have come to understand about true love is that it will not accept anything but the best for the one it is being directed at. After all, love does not rejoice in iniquity, but in truth. In fact, love is selfless, allowing it to regard others in a way in which it truly considers and honors them.
Love is also a matter of grace. No one really deserves another’s love. Therefore, love is given in good faith towards the person it has chosen to become committed to. Granted, love makes one responsible to do that which is right, but it does it for honorable reasons, and not out of duty.
Many people act as if they deserve such love. As a result, they defile true love and make it into a burdensome duty for the other person. You see this in the different relationships that exist between people. In fact, some people take advantage of a person’s commitment towards them, and use and abuse it for their own self-serving purposes. The harsh reality is that most people really do not understand love; therefore, they do not know how to love. The love these people possess is nothing more than self-serving lust that demands that others bow and pay homage to them.
True love will never adore or worship, but it will honor. Honor simply means that the person prefers the good will of the other person over their well-being. It has nothing to do with adoration or worship, because both would stipulate idolatry, rather than love. Sadly, most people are looking for such idolatry in their worldly relationship. This makes such a relationship perverted and unhealthy for both parties.
This brings us to the motivation of all genuine love; that of benevolence. Benevolence means good will and kindness. It points to a disposition that is inclined to do good towards others, and has a tendency to always act out of kindness. It expresses itself in generosity that can turn into sacrifice. The main goal of benevolence is to ensure agreement and reconciliation in a matter. Agreement points to being like-minded in a matter and reconciliation implies one is well-minded in his or her state before God and others.
We see that Paul instructs husbands and wives to have such benevolence towards one another: “Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence, and likewise also the wife unto the husband” (1 Corinthians 7:3).As you consider the instructions in Ephesians 5 in regard to marriage, you realize that without benevolence, there is no way a wife could come into godly submission or that a husband could love his wife as Christ loved the Church. Both require commitment and sacrifice.
In fact, marriage is a covenant. In the Old Testament, all covenants were established between two parties by cutting, which often manifested itself in some type of sacrifice. Covenants point to agreement. To maintain the integrity and intent of a covenant, it must be kept in spirit, principle and practice. It takes the same spirit to ensure communion or agreement, it takes principle to maintain integrity, and it takes practice to uphold its intent.
At this point, you might wonder how marriage fits these criteria. The first instruction God gives is that the man must leave (cut away from) his parents (family) to begin to establish the intent of the covenant: that two must become one. To confirm this covenant, a sacrifice (Jesus) was offered to establish the principle behind marriage—that it represents the relationship that Jesus has with His Body. Finally, we have the practice of marriage—that of agreement through submission and honor to Christ’s example and the Word of God’s instructions.
Obviously, benevolence is missing in many marriages. As you begin to consider the character of God, you realize that His disposition is that of holiness and benevolence. I have already made reference to His holiness. However, it is important to understand it in light of God’s love towards us. These two virtues can clearly be seen on the cross. In His holiness, He sent Jesus, and in His benevolence, He provided, secured and now offers eternal life to each of us. Holiness insists on the best from and for a person, while benevolence offers the best.
Due to God’s holiness, He provided the means for those who believe in Jesus to stand in His wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. As long as a person is in Jesus, this is what God sees and can accept. God has provided this means through the very life of Jesus being established in us. As the life of Jesus consumes us, we begin to partake of God’s best. This is the secret to benevolence. We must not only receive it by faith, but we must partake of it daily to develop the very mind of Christ.
To have the mind of Christ means we possess a like disposition. We will maintain a state of holiness before our God. Such a state will manifest itself in true benevolence. Imagine if this benevolence operated in every relationship, home and the Church? Selfishness would not reign, consideration would be in operation, and respect would be obvious.
Finally, we must not forget compassion. Compassion is a manifestation of true benevolence. This virtue is not sympathy, but empathy. Compassion has the ability to enter in and become identified with a person in his or her plight. Out of true benevolence, Jesus became man. He became identified with us, except for committing sin. However, He experienced the devastation of sin on the cross when He became sin for us. He not only left the glories of heaven (cut away from), but He became a sacrifice that tasted the consequences of our sin—physical death. Clearly, God’s benevolence manifested itself in compassion towards us through Jesus. As a result, we can now be part of an everlasting covenant.
This month as we get caught up with the sentimental and often silly notions of love, let us take a minute to consider the real love of God. It is indeed lasting and eternal because of its character and benevolence. Its benevolence knows no limitation to its commitment, other than the unbelief and rejection of man. As Christians, we must consider whether we possess this benevolence, or whether our love is foolish because it is worldly.
In conclusion, my desire for each of you in light of this information is found in Romans 5:1-5: “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, By whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope; And hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given unto us.”