What Is Biblical Love?

Below is a paper by friend of the ministry, Noah Dilday, on the definition and constitutes of Biblical love. We pray that you enjoy it as Dilday dives into a thoroughly researched study into this fascinating and immensely important topic. We hope you are enriched and God bless.

Abstract

This short paper answers the question of what Biblical love is. Biblical love is something forgotten in today’s society but what does it require of us? And why does it matter.

What Is Biblical Love?

Biblical love is the foundation of our salvation and the greatest precept Christians and all  people are called to uphold. Without love, Christ would not have died on the cross for our sins and become even ugly in the face of God the father. Love endured so much suffering that Christ fulfills an Old Testament prophesy from Psalm 22 when He says: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?!” (Matthew 27: 46). Christ endured losing the presence of the Father from Him out of love for us. This is Christ’s love but what are we as Christians called to do? 

In Matthew 22:37-40, Christ says the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all  your heart, soul, and mind. This love for God calls us to pursue Him and follow His  commandments. In Romans 12:1, we are even called to “give up your bodies as a living  sacrifice” which is our “reasonable” service to God. This idea of giving up our bodies as a living sacrifice is going to be an important application and theme to be remembered throughout this paper.  

The second greatest commandment mentioned in Matthew 22:39 says: “Thou shalt love  thy neighbor as thyself.” Verse 40 continues on to say that on these two commandments rests the whole law and the prophets which brings up the subject I previously mentioned. That without God’s love, we would not be saved through Christ’s sacrifice. Love is incredibly important and can reflect our internal spiritual environment.

The fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-25 begins with love as the number one fruit of the spirit (Verse 22). In verse 25 it says: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” meaning that if we truly are believers, we will follow in Christ’s footsteps in loving people. So, to recap, love is the first and second GREATEST commandment and the number one fruit of the Spirit. Not to mention it is a large reason we have a future beyond this Earth. Obviously, love is incredibly important to God who inspired the Scriptures; yet, we are confronted with the question in society: “What is love?” And “how can we love well even when we consider people to be doing the wrong thing?” 

Today’s society wrestles with this idea of love… Can a man love another man unto  marriage? Can a woman love another woman unto marriage? Can one man or woman be married to many spouses? Can someone love (mostly sexually) people of the opposite and same sex at the same time? (AKA: Bisexuality) Is the discipline of immorality loving? Is the church allowed to discipline immoral behavior? Is that loving?  

All this comes back to the questions: “What is love? And how are we called to love?”  The purpose of this paper is to show from a biblical perspective and interpretation how we are  called to love in all our relationships; because, we are indeed called to love our neighbors as ourselves. But what does that entail and how do we do it properly? 

Laying down some ground rules… Homosexuality is called a sin by Scripture. Consider the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah which can be found in Genesis 19 and some of the  abominations the Bible ascribes for their destruction. Look at Ezekiel 16: 50 which says: “they (Sodom) were haughty and committed abomination before me…” Interestingly, the word  “abomination” is occasionally mentioned in reference to sexual sins or unnatural sins which homosexuality seems to lend itself towards as Christ mentions to the Pharisees who are unlawfully putting away their wives in Matthew 19:8: “but from the beginning it has not been this way.” This verse basically says that in the creation of Adam and Eve, God created what he considered to the perfect marital relationship with one man and one woman. This instantly neutralized the argument of the Pharisees and condemning bisexuality, homosexuality, polygamy, and unlawful divorces which were not present “from the beginning”.  

Furthermore, Sodom is mentioned in Jude 1:7 saying that they committed fornication and followed strange flesh which, as a consequence, “suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.” However, you translate these verses it seems that homosexuality is frowned upon and is directly commanded against in Leviticus 18: 22 which says: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” Again, the word abomination. An argument against this is that it is the Old Testament, which is no longer relevant after Christ’s death, nonetheless, this idea is only expanded upon in Romans 1:26-27 which also condemns homosexuality both in males and females saying that they “exchanged their natural functions for that which is unnatural” and that they had “degrading passions” which certainly seems to go against society’s notion that allowing sexual fluidity and freedom is advancement. It is quite the opposite with the Bible stating it is a “degrading (backward sliding) passion”. To be fair, a majority of the Bible verses mentioning Sodom and Gomorrah talk more about their arrogance than their sexual preferences; however, the two verses that mention these preferences frown against in addition to the Romans and Leviticus verses. 

Looking at Christ’s words directly in Matthew 19:8, Christ really knocks down several sins like bisexuality, homosexuality, and polygamy in saying that is not how He designed  marital relationships originally. Initially, in the history of the world it seems that God allowed polygamy to happen, but this is most likely for quick population of the Earth because later, God condemns polygamy and most polygamous relationships end up poorly. Think of Solomon being led away from the true gospel by his many unbelieving wives or David sinning for Bathshebah and taking another man’s wife. Having multiple spouses just never seems to end well for many Biblical figures and Paul considers it immoral in 1 Corinthians 7:2 writing under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost that “each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own  husband” implying heterosexual marriage between two individuals is the correct relationship.  

Again, these are just some ground rules. This is what the Bible simply says about these  issues and if we cannot admit what the Bible says then the rest of this paper is only going to get harder. The Bible clearly condemns these sins but as a society and individuals, we struggle against His word when trying to twist or ignore it for our own purposes. This is not a paper about marital relationships; but, considering they are a prevalent issue in today’s day and age, I decided to highlight them and how we can handle these sins will be talked about shortly. 

Before continuing, I would like to say that I believe ALL sexual sins can be forgiven and  people who struggle with them can be Christians and should be allowed to go to church to grow with other believers. We are washed white as snow by Christ’s redeeming blood and there are no exclusions. However, the Bible does talk about people who struggle with these sins as not fit for the ministry. 1 Timothy 3:2 says “husband of one wife” and Titus 1: 9 says “holding fast the faithful word, which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict”.

To be blunt, if a homosexual gains a pastoral or elder role in the church he is not “holding fast the faithful word” and therefore is not qualified. I know ministers are sinners and will make mistakes as well; nevertheless, we are to look for the most qualified people and if we see unnatural and obvious sins, it would not to be wise to put them in a leadership role or as the face of the church. Again, if someone conquers this sin and moves past it, I do not see an issue with the pursuit of a leadership role but someone who just sins in their sin is not growing. We are called to be “dead unto sin” (Romans 6:11) and “freed from sin” (Romans 6:7) so, as professing believers, we are not controlled by our sins but have the option to be freed from it; for we are “under grace” (Romans 6:14). 

I would also like to recognize these sexual sins as real issues. Sometimes a human being  cannot control what they are attracted too just like someone might be addicted to pornography and sex but again, WE ARE DEAD TO SIN. This means that we, through the grace of God, can fight sin and put it away. I do understand this is not some flip you can switch and that you might  struggle with it your entire life and I would just like to offer up my prayers for you in this case.  May God give you victory and, if not, patience for the walk.  

Now, after setting the ground rules, how are we supposed to handle these sins in love? The second greatest commandment is not “be right all the time and damn all those who do  wrong”. Instead, it calls us to love our neighbors and even our enemies (Romans 12:20). But  what is Gospel love? How do we fulfill Gospel love in all aspects of our lives as peers, children,  parents, and even the church?  

1 Corinthians 13 is the famous love chapter in which Paul exhorts people in love to  endure, be patient, and to be kind. However, in verse 6 Paul says: “It (love) rejoiceth not in  iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth:” indicating that in those relationships where we love someone, we should not rejoice in their iniquity but always be looking out for the other’s well being even unto death (John 15:13). Sometimes we are called even to be a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1)  and to give ourselves completely to God and our neighbors sacrificing our comfort for other’s  well-being.  

One way we are called to love others is by calling out sin in love. This is usually  uncomfortable for both parties, but it is something I believe we are called to do in love. 1  Thessalonians 5:12-15 talks about “living in peace with one another” (v.13) but also  “admonishing the unruly” (v.14) indicating that these two things can and should be done at the same time. This is also mentioned in Hebrews 12:14 which says: “Follow peace with all men,  and holiness, without the which no man shall see the Lord.” Calling out sin is required and necessary to strengthen the church and believers and then it is the responsibility of the believer to  positively respond to that admonishing. 1 Peter 2:18-20 talks about us being responsive to even unjust or uncontrolled admonishing and taking the “sorrow” patiently. This “sorrow” is also mentioned in 2 Corinthians 7:10 which says: “the sorrow that is according to the will of God  produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation…” meaning that it is wise to respond to admonishing for our salvation. Wouldn’t those who truly love us desire for us to have this repentance unto salvation if necessary? Wouldn’t that then entail having to call out sin? I believe so. 

We are indisputably called to be more like Christ. Romans 12:6-8 talks about Christ  disciplining those He loves and without discipline we are “without correction… and bastards”. It seems that Christ feels strongly that discipline is necessary and even a sign of a true believer in fact verse 6 says: “For whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth” meaning that God, in his perfect  love, chastens. I believe we are called to do the same. Some argue Matthew 7:1-2 saying it is not  our place to judge but that seems to be a shallow interpretation of these verse seeing that verse 2 says: “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be  measured to you” probably demonstrating a humble and fair way of judging, mentioned in Leviticus 19:15, considering the following verse in Matthew then talks about being careful before taking the speck out of your brother’s eye while you still have a beam in yours. A couple of chapters later in Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus says: “If your brother sins, go and show his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother” showing that it is the right, kind, and friendly thing to do to someone you love to call them out. In verse 17 of the same chapter, if the sin is not handled among several witnesses, then it is to be brought before the church and if  there is no obvious repentance they are supposed to be treated as a Gentile (stranger, outsider).  That is tough love. That is the brotherly love we are called to in 1 Peter 3:8 and strongly pushed for in Leviticus 19: 17 which says: “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart, but thou shalt plainly rebuke thy neighbor, and suffer him not to sin”.  

Hopefully, now we can see that we as brothers and sisters in Christ, and the church, are  responsible for calling out sin but what about in some of our family relationships or relationships in which we are the subordinates? What does the Bible say about that? Simply put, much more of the same. It is important to realize that even as we try to follow Christ, even in loving discipline, we are also human sinners and fall short of the glory of God. Hebrews 12: 9-10 talks about our Earthly fathers, who we are called to respect (Deuteronomy 5:16, Exodus 20:12), “chastening us to their own pleasure” (verse 10) showing some amount of human error in discipline yet “we gave them reverence” (verse 9). How much more so are we supposed to respect God’s chastening? Especially, when we are also called to respect our Earthly superiors (1 Peter 2: 13).  In fact, David in Psalm 141: 5, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says that it is a good thing for a righteous person to smite and reprove him. He essentially says that for a righteous person to violently rebuke him is still better than being left to his own devices! Crazy. Other verses to consider are Proverbs 27: 5, 6, 17 and or Proverbs 28: 23 which I highly recommend looking at. 

Calling out our neighbors’ sin in love while pursuing peace can be a hard thing. Hebrews  12: 11 says: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those  who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness”. This verse among many of the previously mentioned states that discipline is a necessary thing but if correctly received, which is most important- not the administration, it finds favor in God’s eyes (1 Peter 2:  19) and pushes us towards salvation as shown in the previous verses. Do all these verses not show the importance of discipline? That it is and can be done in love? That it is the right thing to  do? That it even profits those being rebuked? Quite obviously, I believe it does. 

To recap, discipline is required of Christians to be performed dutifully and lovingly while  still pursuing peace. And the Bible, despite what us humans may think, considers this to be  possible. Looking at today’s culture, and I used the marriage issues as an example, we are so caught up in what we believe is right and just letting others “have their truth” that we lose sight of what ultimately matters- God’s truth. The book of Judges talks about Israel’s back sliding and a reason given for their godlessness is that “everyone did that which was right in his own eyes”.  Are we not the same with “our truths”? We don’t even study or listen to God’s word so its no wonder we cannot handle any human accountability or push-back. People who call out sin these days are labeled as racist, homophobic, “traditional”, transphobic, hateful, and while it is true that unfortunately people do overly or selfishly pursue discipline, that does not mean we should not profit from a tough admonishing (1 Peter 2: 19-20) or not listen to those who are genuinely trying to help us. 

This paper hopefully demonstrates that God ans His word demands us to admonish in love but also to benefit from an admonishing. Both. We are REQUIRED to do this; it is not  optional. Our society is crumbling at the seams as we do what is right in our own eyes (our truth) while God’s truth has been thrown to the wayside and I pray that people listen before we are our own destruction. 

Revelation 22: 20: “He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.

Bibliography

“Sodom and Gomorrah Addresses Gang Rape, Not a Loving Relationship.” The Reformation  Project, 1 Nov. 2019, reformationproject.org/case/sodom-and-gomorrah/.

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