The subject of this spiritual message is very vast and very important but my message will be – compared to the dimensions of this subject – very short! I have entitled it: “The Love of God and the love of Man”. Let us start with God’s love:
The characteristics of the love of God:
The Word of God tells us that three things remain: “faith, hope and love” but the greatest of them is charity or, in other words, love. Neither the languages of men and of angels, nor the gift of prophecy, nor all knowledge, nor the faith which operates miracles, nor our so-called sacrifices are worth something; without the love of God these capacities are worth nothing! It is God who gives all these capacities and it is God who grants the divine love. God does not need faith and hope! For Him all is “present”; it is topicality! He does not need also love because He Himself is love! It is we, men, who need these virtues and especially love. The love of the physical man does not have the same qualities as the divine love that God grants to all those who have repented, who trust Him, and who walk before Him with a pure heart and with a good conscience. The love that God gives to His children suffers long, and is kind, love envies not, love brags not itself and is not puffed up, love does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil, rejoices not in iniquity but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1Cor.13). This love has the characteristics of the love that God wants us to have.
On account of the love that God has for us, He is forbearing and slow in anger (Jas.1:19); He supports the weaknesses of men; it is His glory to pass over a transgression (Pr.19:11 and Mic.7:19) and He is inalterable. Love covers the multitude of sins (1Pet.4:8). Yes, He supports all. Love is permanent and stable. It is written in Mal.3:6 that the LORD does not change and it is for that reason that we have not been consumed! Since man fell into sin, God has not stopped “sitting” him to make him come back to his arms, not for his own interest but for the good of the apostate man. He has loved us with an everlasting love: therefore, with loving kindness has He drawn us (Jer.31:3). He has not rejected man through the centuries and He was not tired to wait for Him. He sent prophets and teachers to help him and prepare his heart to accept God’s love and His blessings. Despite everything that we did to Him, He did not change and He did not give us up. I was filled with wonder when I read and understood the meaning and the message of Jer.31:37, which says: “Thus said the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, said the LORD.” Yes, He did not reject us as it is expressed in Psalm 77:7 to 9: “Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favorable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? does his promise fail for ever more? Has God forgotten to be gracious? has he in anger shut up his tender mercies?”
Dear Friends! God forgives all our sins provided we confess them humbly and He calls us His children! The Bible says that God weeps in secret places because of our pride; and His eye weeps sore and runs down with tears, because we have been carried away captive of our sins and of our passions (Jer.13:17). God expressed his love by His beloved Son Jesus Christ who loved us to the end (Joh.13:1). The proof of it was the sacrifice which He made for us. God sent the object of His love, His own Son to be put to death for us: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 and Rom.5:6-9). And this love consists, not that we loved God, but in that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1John 4:10). This love was expressed on the cross. Not when we were without force, not when we were sinning, but when we were still His enemies. Was His love limited to the cross? No! “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yes rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Rom.8:31-35). That means that, in addition to His blessings, He defends us! His is our “Lawyer”!
He loves to do good to all, to the just and the unjust (Mt.5:45), without discrimination, because He is Just and He is love! The only thing He desires is truth in the inward parts of man’s heart (Ps.51:6); He does not despise anybody. Simply, He cannot have communion with those who are unrepentant, crafty and hypocritical, even if they are priests or pastors or missionaries (1John 1:7). His love envisages the good and what is profitable for all and especially for those who belong to Him. The Devil’s accusations against us cannot penetrate Him and change His unfailing love! He respects the freedom of all and does not oblige anybody.
In closing this short description relating to certain characteristics of God’s love, I want to make a point by mentioning a very important feature of His love: There is no occasion of stumbling in Him! God who loves us unconditionally is never offended with us! Quite to the contrary, He understands us; He tolerates us; He tries to help us and to restore us either by exhortations or by crises which can awake and sensitize our conscience! Woe unto us if He were offended with our behavior!
Now let us examine briefly the characteristics of the human love.
The characteristics of the human love:
Human love is unilaterally directed. We usually love those who love us. We agree to lift only the burdens that we want. On the contrary, true love feels no burden and is ready to give up even what it is entitled to. Human love is of low resistance to pressures. It is easily discouraged and broken. It does not persist and does not continue the combat. Even a mother can forget or sell or kill her child… Its patience and its tolerance reach their limits very quickly vis-à-vis the weaknesses and the needs of others. It is not constant and is influenced by external factors on which it largely depends. The psychic state influences the feelings of love. Various thoughts influence it. False charges and sin make man cold and push him to withdraw into himself. In the morning he shouts “Hosanna” and in the evening “Away with him, away with him, crucify him”. When human love is disappointed, it turns to other directions and man becomes bitter; he sticks to animals, dogs or cats etc., and undergoes a perversion. Today, such a priest or pastor appears splendid to us and the following day we reject him if he does not respond to our criteria and requirements. When we are before a certain opposition, we are tempted to leave the church and to seek another… We let ourselves be carried away by our feelings and not by the notion of duty! The patient attitude of somebody who is gentle and tolerant irritates us. We consider him insensible! The same thing is true when somebody seems to be hard but who, in reality, is not but he is simply just and stable.
These characteristics of the human love constitute the proof, according to the Word of God, that man does not abide by the light and that he has an occasion of stumbling in himself, a scandal, an offense (1John 2:10). The Word of God informs us and assures us that the reason of his offense should be attributed to a lack of roots or persistence (Mt.13:21; Mrk.4:17). Man is scandalized by other people’s weaknesses and sins.
When people do not give a man what he was expecting to get, he is ready to tear his neighbor to pieces! He does not accept to abandon his claims. True love, on the contrary, gives and forgives and prays…! We call “love” our feelings of tenderness and affection which we have towards certain people, even when we disturb them, deprive them of their freedom and make them suffocate. It is a weakness which we very often see in parents towards their children or of wives towards their husbands or vice versa, etc. We call “love” what pleases our neighbor but which does not do him good, which does not build him up and which cherishes his defects or his passions or his sins. True love aims only at doing truly good things to others. It envisages their long-term good. True love deprives us of something in the short run in order to give later on, better and permanent things. It strikes and punishes for a time in order to cure later on. It uses its rod and warns against evil… He who does not warn does not love… Man cannot be a true Christian without true love for his Christian brother and his neighbor and without love for peace and unity! We call “love” when we say “Yes” to everybody but true love must say “No” when it is necessary. Yielding to unjustified sins does not build up our neighbor and does not spur him to growth. We call “love” great and impressive sacrifices (distribution of goods, body flaring etc.). We have the impression that we have “love” when we defend certain people even in an unjustified and partial way, provided that these people belong to our family or to our denomination etc.!
Dear Friends! God wants and is ready to give us what He requires of us: Have His love in and among us believers as well as towards those who are lost in this world of sin! This love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is not given, however, but to those that obey Him (Act.5:32) and that seek diligently His will with all their heart. Our obedience consists of three things: Of our repentance, of our confidence in Christ and of our love for God and for each other from a clean heart and a pure conscience.
The word “obedience”, in the context of the New Testament, does not refer to our obedience according to the Mosaic Law, “Touch not; taste not; handle not etc.” (Col.2:21). This does not mean that it suppresses the moral law of God’s commands (You shall not kill. Neither shall you commit adultery. Neither shall you steal etc.) (De.5:17-19) but it refers basically to the position that man’s heart takes towards God and his fellow man. This is also the reason why God said that there is no greater command than “… And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mark.12:30-31). Also, “And as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them likewise.” (Lu.6:31). These reasons speak about the position of our heart, which is the most important thing in our life: “Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Pr.4:23).
The position of the heart is expressed:
1. By repentance. By “repentance”, according to God, we mean our change of mentality, our change of direction and the moral reformation of our entire life. There can be no real repentance if one of these three component elements is absent. If we do not begin with true repentance, we will end nowhere. Repentance means change of will, reformation and ceasing of sinning. Repentance means mourning for a committed sin and not for a failure… Repentance means production of fruits worthy of repentance and not simply sentimentalism, remorse (sorrow without a change of life) and teardrops without a change of life according to God! This is our most basic way of obedience in God! Repentance is a position of heart towards God and against sin! It is an act of justice towards God: We admit that He is just and that we are unjust!
2. By faith in the words of God, exactly as they are written in the Holy Scriptures AND by our trust in God’s character. Our obedience lies, in reality, in the fact that we are called to believe God’s promises (concerning power, grace, protection, direction etc.) that are found behind each command. God does not send you… to war at your own expenses… “Faithful is he that calls you, who also will do it.” (1Thes.5:24). We obey God because we trust God’s promises and commands… Our faith in the words of God and in His character constitutes the highest form of honor and justice to God in our conscience and consequently our highest form of obedience to Him!!! It is an act of justice towards God: We admit that God tells always the truth; ‘all men are liars’ (Ps.116:11). Not “do” but “believe in order to be able to do”… Faith activates will, mind and man’s whole life… Faith is a position of our heart by which we embrace Christ! The Bible says: “That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.” (Rom.10:9-10). It is important to know that without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb.11:6).
3. By our unfeigned love to our Savior Christ and to men. Our unfeigned fervent love for our brethren is the result of the purification of our hearts in obeying the truth through the Spirit (1Pe.1:22). Our love to Christ – who loved us first up to the point of delivering His life to death for us sinners – constitutes the best expression of gratitude of our heart for the salvation that He offered us and saved us from eternal damnation… At the same time it is an act of justice: It is just to love Him who loved you and saved you; He deserves your love. It is an injustice to deprive Him of your love. It is, therefore, once again, a problem of the position of the heart towards God.
This is the “obedience” that God desires, expects and requires from us. Is it not this the reason why John the Baptist and Christ began their ministry, saying “Repent you, and believe the gospel”? Our love for the truth in the depth of our heart constitutes the more perfect form of obedience to our God and our Savior. This is what God expects from us and – responding to us – He outpours His Holy Spirit into us that permeates all of our existence: Body, soul and spirit! Thus, we can fear and love not only our Lord with all our heart and put our love in obedience to the truth but also our neighbor with the love that has the characteristics of divine love! He who loves God loves his brother also (1Jo.4:21). He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him (1Jo.2:10) and ‘has passed from death unto life’ (1Jo.3:14). He does not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth (1Jo.3:18). Why? Because the LORD his God has circumcised his heart to love the LORD his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, that he may live (De.30:6). Why? Because the Lord has put His laws into his heart, He has written them in his mind and He does not remember any more his sins and his iniquities.
Blessed be His Name!!!