God’s Glorious Attributes
By Rayola Kelley
It is February, the month for cupid to shoot his arrows at people so they can fall in love. I am sure those who have studied this winged infant carrying a bow and a quiver of arrows know that he is nothing more than a myth. Cupid is the ancient Roman god of love and according to mythology is the son of Mercury, the winged messenger of the gods, and Venus, the goddess of love. Apparently, this combination is what gave him his mission as a messenger of love.
Cupid’s Greek counterpart was Eros, and he even has been associated with Nimrod of the Old Testament. This mythical Roman god has been presented as a cute, angelic, lovable, harmless creature but the truth is that the implications behind Cupid are not sweet or innocent. In mythology he is not presented as some cute angel but, like Nimrod, is a grown man. Cupid is supposed to wound people to inspire an emotional response of passion, but at this point one must question if real love is simply a passion that can flow in and out like a tide. Cupid’s other characteristics is that he is a bit on the mischievous side and can prove to be devious and untrustworthy.
It is important to understand that when man created such a god from his imagination in order to explain things he did not understand or control that he did so based on the fickleness of humanity. These mythical gods were unpredictable, touchy, and had clashes among themselves just like humans. Granted, like our imaginary super heroes of today, they were accredited with certain supernatural powers, but they lacked discipline, which ended in some type of destruction that became a point of superstition for those who believed that they had to somehow constantly please these unpredictable gods to bring peace to their world.
One has to question how much of the mythology has influenced our understanding about love or is it an advertisement ploy? Consider for a moment the perspective that such a character as Cupid puts on the idea of love. People must be wounded to fall in love. It is true that love can wound, but it happens after a relationship goes bad. When it comes to an emotional response, people sometimes respond to another person because they fall in love with the idea of love. In fact, they can become quite sentimental about the feelings this type of emotional response can create, but sadly such sentiment will blind people to the truth about the object of their attention. They will ignore signs of flaws, justify certain questionable behaviors, and convince themselves that love will change the person in the end.
As stated, this kind of love is to create some type of passion. The problem with passion is that it can be translated as being nothing more than lust. Fleshly appetites create such passions that are able to produce extreme responses to the feeling or idea of love. It is important to note that feelings are stirred up by attractions. The idea of shooting an arrow is to awaken a person to an attraction that he or she might not be aware of so, thus causing the person to see through different eyes.
True, lasting love will not find its source in some fickle creature who is the product of imagination and superstition, nor can it be trusted if it is based on some passion that is awakened to lust after someone who might not share in such affections. When love is not reciprocated as expected, it points to this feeling becoming devious and untrustworthy. It is important to point out that behind every idol of the imagination and heart is demonic activity and influence.
An arrow shot in the spiritual realm is aimed at the imagination, which stirs up some type of attraction that creates expectation resulting in desire that translates into fleshly lust. The attraction is often self-serving, promising some type of pleasure, while the expectation is often unrealistic, producing a perverted lust that will often swing on a pendulum of extreme feelings and responses.
We see this in the case of King David’s son Amnon in 2 Samuel 13. The Bible tells us he was, vexed over her and became “sick with love” for his half-sister. This term points to lust and not love. He was obsessed with her and desired her in an unhealthy manner to the point that he was willing to trespass all areas of moral conduct and partake of her fruit no matter what. After he connived to get her to himself, then he forced himself on her against her will. When he was done robbing her of her purity, he was left with the sick, empty feeling that perhaps harbored guilt. It was at that time his lust turned into contempt towards her and he cast her out from his presence, bringing a greater reproach on her.
Real love is not some state that creates euphoria or a fantasy in the imagination as one teeters in great expectation on a precipice of emotional happiness. Granted, we would all like to live in the heights of great sentiment and romance when it comes to loving our spouse, but that is not realistic. We like to hold on to those strong feelings that we first had or the euphoria we initially walked in, but love must come down to the valleys to be tested in order for it to mature. Therefore, true love is not some sentiment or passion; rather, it is an attitude of the heart.
People associate love with the heart, but it is associated to an emotional side. Granted there are emotions that are attached to love, but love is much more than fickle emotion that can flee as soon as the environment or circumstances turn to drudgery or become sour. True love involves a commitment of the heart that enables one to stand with a person through the storms, endure the challenges, and walk through changes and losses.
This brings us to the commitment of love. The marriage agreement reveals the intent behind love. It shows that love is not based on fickle emotions or self-serving agendas but a lasting promise that two people are willing to bank on each other’s commitment enough to make a life-time vow to keep their relationship intact within the sacred bond of marriage.
Some people wonder why make such a vow, but a vow is more than words, it is a contract that shows intention. People do not make a contract unless they trust that the other party is serious and determined enough to keep it to its completion. No one who has integrity enters into a contract to break it; rather, they enter into it as a means to hold themselves accountable to see a matter through to the end.
Sadly, many people enter a contract to selfishly get what they want, but in reality they are not committed to necessarily keep their end of the bargain. Jesus reveals the core of a problem as to why marriages end, breaking the its vow: “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives; but from the beginning it was not so” (Matthew 19:8).
Once again, we see that quality and endurance of marriage is a matter of the heart. What one discovers is that if a person lacks integrity of the heart, he or she will prove to be immoral or lawless, doing those things that seem right according to his or her own narrative. Such individuals can sometimes appear to be flying high on some emotional notion, or display casualness about the agreement. Man’s lack of character to keep his word or agreement about anything has forced legal-binding contracts to be drawn up, making the law the enforcer of contracts, or the arbitrator when conflicts arise in such agreements. This is true when it comes to divorce.
This bring us back to real love. What characteristics clearly distinguish this love from the worldly, lustful love that can grab a person and take him or her on an emotional whirlwind? I would like to share some of these qualities this month.
Real, lasting love can only come from God. Romans 5:5 states, “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Love is the first ingredient in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 and it serves as the basis and foundation for eight remaining ingredients to be established and developed in our lives.
As Christians, the love of God has been bestowed on us by the Father (1 John 3:1). This love is what enables us to commit all to God, and it is what will ultimately distinguish us as belonging to His kingdom. Jesus made this fact clear in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if have love one to another.”
People talk about the first two commandments, loving God with everything in us and our neighbor as ourselves, but Jesus added another commandment, that as believers we are to love one another as He loved us. It is this love for one another that verifies salvation because it cannot happen without the Holy Spirit. People may associate their salvation to a denomination, good works, theology, and being decent, but what distinguishes a Christian is that he or she has love for other believers, regardless of differences in non-essential doctrines and practices. This type of love is quick to forgive, overlook petty, personal offenses, and desires reconciliation when a relationship has been broken because of human flaws and misunderstandings.
This brings me to the second ingredient of true love—that it is sacrificial. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This clearly shows us that God’s love is sacrificial. Man’s love can be noble and the world’s love can be attractive and promising, but God’s love requires us to give up our selfishness and become selfless to ensure purity in our love for others as we prefer their well-being over ours (Romans 12:9-10). The truth is we cannot honor others until we quit preferring ourselves with our needs and agendas above all else. We can’t really submit and give way to that which is worthy, excellent, and honorable until we cease to make everything about me, myself, and I. In a sense, true love puts a very high value on the one who it is being directed towards. The truth is, such love wants foremost to please those it prefers and not self.
For love to be sacrificial, a lasting commitment must be present. There is a difference between loving someone and “falling in love” with someone. It is easy to love some aspect of the person when it serves our purpose or makes us have pleasant feelings, but falling in love with that person in the bad times is a heart choice. We cannot make a heart choice unless the commitment to do so is present.
Godly love is committed to do right by others but such righteousness involves making the right decision to do so. These decisions may have to be made many times during the day when problems turn into mountains, irritations become obstacles, and frustrations create a type of insanity, putting our worlds into utter chaos.
This brings us to a simple reality: love is a choice of the heart. God did not bestow His love on us because He had to or because we deserved it but because He chose to. Jesus did not have to come and die on the cross, but out of love and obedience to the Father, He did so. The one thing that breaks the vow of marriage is if one is unfaithful. True love will ultimately make the necessary choices to ensure the well-being of others, not out of obligation, but because it is the right, moral, and excellent thing to do.
Doing right points to service. We must remember we are not here so others can serve us; rather, we are here so we can serve others. I remember the shock, but sober look on a newly-married man’s face when I told him that he needed to learn to properly serve his wife first if he was going to effectively serve others. Acceptable service before God will be motivated by His love. We serve others because we love Him and realize we are to become an extension of that love when it comes to souls.
It is important to remember that service in the kingdom of God gives us an opportunity to express the love of God to others and we must not squander the opportunity through neglect of our high calling, by ignoring the chance to express it, putting it aside because of laziness and indifference, or justifying it away because it is not worth it to us.
The next aspect of true love is that it is enduring. Since love is not about self but the other person, it can be longsuffering because it is not about what will serve personal preferences. It can be kind in the midst of opposition because self is not there to take personal offense. It can be upright in motive and action because it has nothing to gain or lose one way or the other. It is not looking at how a matter may presently impact emotions or the environment; rather, it is looking beyond to see the potential of someone to make the proper investment. As I have stated before, we minister according to a person’s potential and not his or her present state.
Love that is enduring will be faithful to the end. One of the endearing attributes of God to me has and continues to prove to be His faithfulness towards me. When I am faithless before Him, He proves to be faithful to me. His faithfulness speaks of the fact that His commitment of love will never change towards me and that He will keep all of His promises that He has given.
I share this story a lot but the first book I managed to publish took me 18 years from its initial inception in 1977 to its completion in 1995. On the day of the book signing, April 8, 1995, I was asked to speak about it to those present at the book signing. As I was inquiring of the Lord as to what I should emphasize about it, I will never forget what happened that day. I can tell you where I was standing, which was in our condo in Kirkland, Washington, when He impressed upon me to share with others His faithfulness to bring forth the book. I realized that it was not my faithfulness to the book that brought it to fruition; rather, it was God’s faithfulness that saw me through the process.
The reality is that many humans can prove to be too emotional to see a matter through; too self-serving to care if it ever comes to fruition; too fickle to stay the course; too casual when it comes to personal promises; and too foolish when it comes to responsibilities. Such people’s words usually mean nothing, their intentions are empty, their excuses insulting, and their attitude towards the situation proves to be deplorable.
It is important at this time to point out the vow that is made in marriage speaks of love, but it is really about being faithful to that person until “death parts them.” The problem in many marriage relationships is that one in the marriage or both have a hard heart (Matthew 19:3-9).
On the other hand, God means what He says and says what He means. His intentions are pure and He is faithful to every one of His words, faithful about His promises, faithful in regard to what is true, faithful in ensuring righteousness in all matters, and faithful to you and me to keep us in the way, preserve us in this present age, and keep our feet on the right path. He never worries about what seems wrong, falls off His throne when something suddenly happens, or take detours when everything seems in chaos.
It has taken a few years for me to realize how important God’s faithfulness is. We talk about His everlasting love, but love means nothing unless it proves to be faithful. We often point to His grace but without His faithfulness it could prove to be unpredictable. We appreciate His mercy, but without His abiding faithfulness He could not be trusted to make His mercies new every day and available to meet us.
We can take for granted the faithfulness of God without realizing that it is His faithfulness that allows us to trust His intentions in all He says and does. God’s faithfulness is who He is, and must become a big part of who we become. Keep in mind, one of the ingredients in the fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness. The word “faith” is used, but faith has to do with embracing or doing something in good faith, which requires being faithful to the end. Faithfulness stands between goodness and meekness in the fruit of the Spirit. “Goodness” in this text has to do with doing that which benefits and “meekness” has to do with being under control. If we are going to benefit others, we must see something through to the end which will require us to be disciplined. We must bring our feelings, emotions, agendas, and desires under control so that in good faith we can benefit others with what we have been entrusted with.
Faithfulness keeps us steady. We will stay the course, stand our ground when necessary, and continue advancing forward regardless of what is going on in order to finish what has been set before us. And, like the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7, we need to be able to say at the end of our earthly journey, “We have finished the course, fought a good fight and kept our faith in good standing.”