What Is Love? - A Biblical View
I've read many books about relationships and Christian dating. My favorite I know that sounds harsh, but let me explain my theory on Christian dating. I do not . In this paper, we look for a biblical definition of love at its best. Biblical Love Defined. As we argued in Organic Disciple Making, the biblical ideal of Christian love. What makes Christian dating so hopelessly complicated is the Christians themselves. We bring our love for out-of-context scripture and applied-only-when -convenient . By this theory, the only way to really master the art of dating is to not If dating hinders your relationship with God, why would you ever.
God is first idealised, then devaluated, then abused and 'one wonders if even God Himself can escape this classic pattern of behaviour of the narcissist' Vaknin Thus, from a theological point of view, a narcissist wants to be omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, admired, much discussed, and awe inspiring. God resembles everything the narcissist ever wants to be - an idol Vaknin The experience of our humanness depends on our self-knowledge and the experience of ourselves. The difference between a healthy self-love and a distorted self-love lies in the ability to tell reality from fantasy and the ability to empathise and to love others Vaknin The narcissist, incapable of true self-love, has an unhealthy and distorted idea of self-love as well as a distorted experience of the self Vaknin But what is proper self-love really and what may we learn from Scripture?
This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: However, this is a misreading of what it actually says.
Organic Discipleship - A Biblical Model for Love Relationships
We are not commanded to love our neighbour and ourselves, but as ourselves. In other words, the statement naturally assumes that we have a certain desire for our own wellbeing, and the command is to have an equal concern for the wellbeing of others.
Self-love is not a virtue that Scripture commends, but one of the facts of our humanity that it recognises and tells us to use as a standard. For the purpose of this article and the proposed notion of an integrated self-love, agape, philia and eros need to be defined. Self-love and agape, philia and eros Love can take on the form of agape, philia, and eros. Agape, philia, and eros are forms of love that we experience in everyday life, which give a specific meaning to the many relationships that we find ourselves in.
But we have to determine the meaning of each of these forms of love in order to understand how relationships are affected by these specific kinds of love and how self-love fits into the bigger picture of our self-consciousness and our understanding of self-love Wood In Kittel's Theological dictionary of the New Testamentagape is described as 'God's special love for an individual', and the noun agape expresses the 'love that makes distinctions, choosing its object and holding to it … a free act, definitely chosen by the subject'.
Agape is specially seen in God's love, the love of one on high, exalting those of low degree humanity and creation. Agape is a form of sacrificial giving. It is God's way to humanity. It is God's grace, God's unselfish love, and it is given freely by God.
What Is Love?
Agape is sovereign in relation to its object and is directed to the good for those we stand in relationship with; it creates value in its object. There is no such thing as a good agape and a bad agape - there is only God's agape Wood In Kittel's Theological dictionary of the New Testamentphilia is defined as liking or caring, 'as of gods for men, of friend for friends, the love that is given to all kinds of human beings' a love 'from which a man can excuse himself, not an irresistible urge or frenzy'.
Vine in his Expository dictionary says: The use of philia in Peter's answers and the Lord's third question Jn. Fieser and Dowden n. The view that Christian ethics has been diminished by an eros-based ethics also exists Nygren This means that more emphasis is placed on personal happiness or fulfilment. Human action is evaluated by the degree to which it leads to happiness of the self, fulfilment of the self, by possessing something, whether that something is God, a fellow human being or some other reality.
Eros turned inward results into selfish desires and wishes, and eros love becomes a demanding, self-centred, and needy self-love.
Organic Discipleship - A Biblical Model for Love Relationships | Xenos Christian Fellowship
Self, self-love and 'mind', 'emotions' and 'will' The focus on views on self in philosophy, psychology and theology reflects the difficulty experienced in describing the meaning of self in its full depth and breadth. The various views on self in the field of philosophy recognise the importance of the human ability to think and reflect, in the experiencing of self. The mind seeks to understand through a process of reasoning what is experienced in terms of ourselves, others and the world around us.
What we experience as human beings of ourselves and of others can only be experienced through our senses and it stands to reason that the mind and its functions, in the process of endeavouring to understand what we experience, is closely linked to our ability to see, hear, touch, taste and smell. This process also brings our emotions and our will into play. Emotions such as, hurt, fear, anger, joy, happiness, and peace influence the mind's response Wood Although I agree with Descartes on the importance of humans' ability to think, and that this ability is closely linked with our experience of self, I want to emphasise that the experience of the self through the rational includes aspects such as feelings, perceptions etcetera.
The self, as viewed only as a thinking entity, results in a viewpoint of the self that becomes de-personalised, de-individualised, not having the quality of being an integrated self.
A self that only consists of a thinking component negates feelings, senses and experiences. Without senses, experiences, feelings, etcetera, the idea of a personal identity is not possible and the self as a rational and relational being becomes a thinking-self with thought as its only attribute.
The rational side of the self is only one part of what constitutes the self. Pascal in Levin So too Locke with his emphasis on the mind, body and sensations working together in creating awareness of self; Hume with memory and one's sense of personal identity; Kant with the noumenal self, self-in-self, only to be experienced in its effect in our lives; Hegel with his dialectical self-experienced in differentiation, integration and action, and last but not least, Kierkegaard with his awareness of self, formed in the tension created in the experience of relationship.
It should be acknowledged that the ability to think, to reason, is of fundamental importance in experiencing self but it is always an ability that is closely linked and dependent upon so much more. It cannot be elevated to the only important reality in being human Wood In terms of the experience of an integrated self-love, mind, along with emotions and will is a core reality. Although the mind works through reasoning it works closely with one's emotions and will but the mind is the part where all experiences are intellectually observed and where one consciously and unconsciously learns to deal with the inner as well as the outer world.
The mind, by the process of reasoning and analysis, assists us to learn lessons about ourselves and makes us conscious about the world. It stands to reason that everything we experience is fundamentally within the context of a specific relationship with something or someone.
This relationship forms the context of the primary influence in the creation of an experience, but it is not the only influence in the creation of that specific experience. The whole net of relationships which we find ourselves in, in one way or another, influences our specific life-experiences, and thus also our experience of self. The lack of an integrated viewpoint of the self clearly has dire consequences for the understanding of the relationships we have with God, other human beings, ourselves, and the universe.
If we do not experience self, we cannot experience anything else. It is an ability that draws on and is influenced by our personhood as a holistic experiential experience of past and present realities and future anticipations. Our evaluations, our perceptions of what we experience, are fundamental not only to how we relate to ourselves but to everybody and everything, God included Wood In the light of the above, the biblical teaching that God's love towards humans and all of creation is realised within the context of a covenant relationship, is a core truth.
Love in Scripture is always within clearly defined relationships governed by certain distinctive responsibilities. Interpretations of the statement in Matthew The first would then have the implied meaning of 'You shall love your neighbour just as you are to love yourself'; the second, 'You shall love your neighbour, understanding that you shall first learn what it means to love yourself'; and the third, 'You shall love your neighbour as you already do love yourself'.
Views recognising self-love as important in the lives of Christians - whether as a command, as desirable and necessary, or as a given fact of life - have met, and are still being met, with a strong current of thought that finds no legitimate place for self-love in Christian life. In my opinion views that propagate self-love as a commandment and self-love as desirable or assumed very often flounder due to the poor theological milieu within which the interpretations are given - the latter often where great emphasis is placed on the interpretation of various texts in the Old and New Testament with deductions not guided by a satisfactory theological bedding for statements.
The questions raised by reflection on self-love in a Christian context cannot be satisfactorily answered by a mere stringing together of texts in a simplistic proof-text method, says Gulley As point of departure in the discussion of a biblical-theological foundation for self-love, I choose to focus on Matthew It is a core statement in many of the discussions on self-love and it reflects, in my opinion, the core of a theological underpinning for self-love.
The first that should be noted and considered in the forming of an understanding of the issue at hand is the context of Christ's answer. The law and the prophets In Matthew Responding to this question Jesus quotes from the Shema Dt. But Jesus also added that these two commandments are the sum of all the law and the prophets.
This double love command for God and neighbour is according to Brady the hermeneutical key in the understanding of Scripture. Jesus' answer indicates that he sees his statement on love - love of God and neighbour - revealing not only the main point of the 'law and the prophets' but its presupposition, its basis.
This immediately cuts off any interpretation of 'as yourself' as referring to the fact that it is natural and normal for humans to love themselves and that this becomes a kind of criterion for the love to be expressed in terms of the neighbour.
Although it might be true that humans in general have a love of self, the spiritual milieu of Christ's statement, the root of the statement, is to be found in a defined relationship with God and neighbour. The interpretation of love of God, neighbour, and self, has to be interpreted within the context of 'all the law and the prophets'.
The question posed to Christ and Christ's answer places the discussion of love squarely in this context. It is love understood and expected as revealed in the 'law and the prophets' - an understanding and expectation that has to conform to God's revealed understanding and expectation of what it should be and to which any expression of human self-love has to conform.
Self-love as a natural phenomenon does not, as experience teaches us, automatically express God's precepts for a life in relation to the 'neighbour' as given in the teachings reflected in the 'law and the prophets'.
According to Donovanthe Torah or law Genesis - Deuteronomy is regarded as the most precious part of the Hebrew Scripture, and the prophets Isaiah - Malachi are the next most important. They clearly reveal and explain the gift of love and the demand of God's love. Donovan further points us to the fact that Jesus, by referring to the law and the prophets, says that these commandments encapsulate the greatest wisdom in Scripture and a guide to God's will. By loving God and doing what God wants us to do, and by loving our neighbour, we are complying with God's law.
Love of God and love of neighbor are quite different. Love of God is manifested by acts of obedience and worship that grow out of reverence for God. Love of neighbor is manifested by acts of kindness that grow out of concern for the neighbor's need. Two commandments Christ describes 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind' as 'the great and first commandment' Mt.
The two commandments - love of God and love of the neighbour - are clearly, as Barth The second of the two commandments also is no mere 'appended, subordinate and derivative command' Barth It is 'as important, of equal gravity', as Hill Quoting the second in addition to the first 'is in this instance not the fact that love to God includes love to our neighbour, which is true enough', says Lenski Barth is justified in writing: A true exposition can only speak of a genuinely twofold, i.
It has reference to God, but also to the neighbour. It has the one dimension, but also the other. It finds in the Creator the One who points it to this creature, fellow-man. And it finds in this creature, fellow-man, the one who points it to the Creator. Receiving and taking seriously both these references in their different ways, it is both love for God and love for the neighbour. The genuineness of the one without the other is suspect.
Having said this, there is a second point concerning the relationship between the two commandments - an insight referred to by Barclay and by Schweizer - that needs to be highlighted. Jesus not only limits the necessary commandments to two, but by fusing those two he also prescribes how to perform the first: Such a person lives continuously in the shadow of this command and continuously strives to realise in his or her life that which God expects of one living a life that acknowledges Him as Lord.
I believe that God pairs us up with people that complement the gifts, talents, and personalities that He has given us — if we let Him. I have found this to be true in my own life. The guys I dated before I began dating my husband were not all bad guys.
In fact, most of them had many good qualities. We genuinely cared about each other and had fun together. In other relationships, I began to think that some of the things I had wanted in a husband were perhaps more wishful thinking than things that could actually be.
Did those caring, sensitive, funny, godly men really exist? For instance, one guy that I dated was a very nice guy. But although he said his faith was important to him, attending church and reading the Bible were not high on his priority list. But I began to notice subtle patterns that bothered me. His job often seemed more important to him than our relationship, and he would repeatedly put friends or family before me. Once I took my fingers out of my ears and agreed to truly hear what God had to say, His answer was quite clear.
Does it hurt to end a relationship? In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us…. Return to Top Does love come by chance or maturity? Teaching on the nature of love has been neglected by the church, and in general, there are not Christian publications on — What is love?
How can someone love as Christ loves? How are errors committed in loving another person? How can life be enriched through love? How can living be structured on love? However, almost no one believes there is anything to be learned about love. See Postscript below People know love is important. A constant stream of songs and movies and novels indicates the population is starved for love; but, in our culture love is considered a pleasant sensation, a matter of chance or luck, not something that requires effort or knowledge.
Most people assume that the problem of love is in being loved, not in how to love. Therefore, they are eager only to learn how to be more lovable, through pleasant manners, interesting conversation, attractiveness, sex appeal, or success. Their focus is on a union with the opposite sex, which occurs when two people just fall in love. However, this intimate relationship seems to be based on a commodities exchange.
A man with so many social assets finds a woman with comparable assets, and they fall in love as a deal. At times, a relationship arises from the confusion of infatuation, the sensation of sudden intimacy, or a sexual attraction, especially when the couple is intensely lonely, until disappointment or boredom sets in.
Chance unions do not provide a firm foundation for a relationship, and people often consider their worldly concerns more important than their love]. Even the basis of brotherly love in our culture seems to arise from a comparison of personal assets to be exchanged, as people pursue prestige, money and power, and seek relationships that correspond to or advance their social positions.
The Bible represents love as a learning experience and provides instruction on how we may mature in its expression. And this is my prayer: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. For, brethern, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great…. Perhaps, the passage in the Bible that most explicitly gives instruction on love is I Corinthians, chp.
Note, in particular, the humility of verses 4,5: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. NIV Christ made himself an example of loving humility in the ways of every day living. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Love is a spiritual power.