Love: What It Isn't

Prior to taking a content holiday in February, I posted several times on love ... what it is, how to do it, what motivates it, etc. Of course, I wasn't talking about romantic love. I was talking about the kind of love that is rare. A Godly love motivated by grace and a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Theologians and philosophers refer to it as agape (pronounced a gop ay) love.

Agape love is that kind of love that motivated God to send His only begotten son to atone for the sins of His people. It's the kind of love that motivate the Son to be obedient to His Father and pay for the sins of His people with His very own blood. It's also the kind of love that we Christians are called to express, individually and corporately, daily as we interact with the surrounding culture. It's not an easily understood kind of love.

I began this discussion with a simple and rhetorical question: Is it possible to love a flat earther? I could just as well have asked, "Is it possible to love an environmentalist, or a terrorist?" I can assure you, God would answer the question with an unquestionable, "Oh, yeah. I already have."

The next week, I continued the discussion by answering the question. There was really nothing brilliant about that post. It was largely an explication of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

In the next post, I got a bit personal and discussed how I learned to love my father. I believe we can all learn to love those who rub us the wrong way and all it takes is a heart of forgiveness that begins with first understanding that God's love is deep and wide enough to cover all sin ... our own as well as everyone else's.

While I believe it's important to talk about what love is, I also think it's important to talk about what love is not. We can often gain a better understanding of things by looking at the flipside. The bright side of the moon becomes much brighter when we explore the dark side. In that spirit, I'm revisiting this issue to clear up a misconception.

love your neighbor

Love Is Not a Matinee of Destruction

There's a common misconception in our world today, and sadly, it's held by many Christians. Therefore, we can't blame it on lack of faith. The misconception is that true love is, at heart, a "live and let live" philosophy. You go your way, I go my way, and we'll let those guys over there go their way. No one ever needs correction, nor should anyone's beliefs, thought patterns, and behaviors ever be challenged.

Not only is this not a posture of love, but it's a ticket to destruction. I'd go so far as to call it terroristic activity.

Imagine a man walking toward a cliff. It's clear that if he continues walking, he will fall off splatter onto the rocks below. There is no other fate waiting for him should he continue to march forward. His only other options are to stop walking, turn around and walk the other way, or divert his gait left or right to walk in a different direction that, hopefully, is less dangerous.

There are those who would say, "Let him walk. If he is bent on killing himself, then that is his right. Let him be." I'll say it outright, that is not a position of love. Godly love does not let others walk headlong into destruction without issuing some kind of warning or making an attempt to get that individual to change his course of action. If necessary, one may tackle such an individual or use some other drastic measure to head off the inevitable. Saving that person would be an act of love; making no attempt to do so would not be love.

There are any number of reasons why this individual may be heading off a cliff.

  1. Perhaps he is blind and cannot see the cliff

  2. He could be confused and thinking he is walking toward some treat

  3. Some force may have taken over his senses and is guiding him to move in a certain direction against his will

  4. His mind could be preoccupied with another matter and he simply isn't paying attention to his whereabouts

This list is not exhaustive, but it illustrates that the man's intention may not be suicide even though it may look to an outside observer that it is. An observer who loves the man walking toward the cliff would make some attempt to save the individual from destruction. An observer who makes no such attempt cannot honestly claim to love the walker as love would motivate the individual to divert destruction rather than encourage it.

This drastic situation is a metaphor for ideas. There are good ideas and there are bad ideas. In our world today, people are encouraged to develop and entertain their own ideas, and rightly so. However, there is little training to teach people how to discern good ideas from bad and how to filter through the ideas to pick the best ones. On that matter, then, there are multitudes of people in the U.S. (and I suspect elsewhere) chasing bad ideas and walking toward a philosophical cliff. It is up to those who are able to discern good ideas from bad to help those folks along, to teach them how to tell the difference between good ideas and bad and to do all they can do to prevent those folks from walking off the proverbial cliff.

Not All Ideas Are Created Equal

In my life, I've had plenty of ideas and most of them have been bad. Thankfully, I've had some good ones too! If we're all honest about ourselves, we'd say the same.

One thing I've learned over the years is how to spot the bad ideas and throw them out before I act upon them. This is a skill that I've noticed many people don't have. It can frustrating to see those one loves walking toward a cliff and thinking they are headed toward paradise. Life is full of obstacles, challenges, and trickeries that one must navigate to get to the other side. Understanding that basic truth about life itself is essential to understanding that bad ideas can be destructive in some very permanent ways.

Of course, not all bad ideas are created equal either. There's a far cry difference between a man believing the earth is flat and a man thinking that murder is a community service. The former may believe in all sorts of conspiracy theories that make him look like a kook, but the latter is a course to destroy many people's lives including his own in ways that are irreversible.

Understanding the seriousness of a bad idea is just as important as identifying the bad idea in the first place. Once a man, or woman, has a clear grasp on what a bad idea is and its degree of seriousness, he, or she, can then set a course of action to correct it. That calls for wisdom.

Wisdom and Godly love go hand in hand. The first step is to ensure that one's own footing is on solid ground before attempting to correct another, but without love as a guiding force, one is likely to do as much damage as the bad idea itself. But let us never think that we should let the blind continue walking toward a cliff. If they weren't so blind, they would certainly not be walking toward it in the first place.

Allen Taylor is the author of I Am Not the King.

First published at Paragraph. Image from Pexels.

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Allen Taylor
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