If you had to select the most important word in all of human language, what would that word be? It seems to me that that word would have to be Love, for to be loved is mankind’s constant necessity from the cradle to the grave. It is an unhappy thing to be poor and hungry, but it is worse to be unloved, for though a man’s life seems barren and unblessed, yet if he knows that someone loves him unconditionally, he still feels he has a reason to live. Conversely, many a wealthy person has taken their own life because they found that though they possessed the world, possessions could not compensate them for a loveless life. Love is as necessary as water to human existence. Because of this, love is discovered in every culture and society. Again, like water, it is more plentiful in some places than in others, but because of it’s necessity, it is always present to some degree, or else people could neither exist nor co-exist.
However, because the human heart is corrupted by sin, our loving is a very imperfect, limping thing. We dream of love so that we sing about it and write poems about it, but our attempts at practicing it are barely adequate to sustain a society, and fall far short of what is needed to produce a happy one. It is true that we can point to instances of great human love, for as the apostle says, “perhaps for a good man some would even dare to die” (Rom.5:7), yet the soldier who dies to protect his mates would at other times lie to them or brawl with them over some trifling matter. No one questions the reality of a mother’s love, yet there are moments when her love gives way to resentment at the sacrifices she must make. This sort of inconsistent love is characteristic of every fallen son or daughter of Adam.
However, there comes a point in a culture where love is so overshadowed by selfishness that families and nations can no longer survive, and begin to fall apart. We are witnessing this in our day, as lovelessness turns God’s Own Country into the Devil’s own country where many children grow up in households where love’s patience and kindness are seldom seen and never taught. Therefore it is no surprise that in the last fifty years both the crime rate and the percentage of New Zealanders who are in prison has quadrupled. The same proportions are seen regarding marriage, so that men and women who simply choose to live in sin now outnumber those who choose to marry, and of those marriages, over 40% will not last. The so-called “Ministry of Social Development” has reached to point where it struggles to find sufficient homes for thousands of abused and unwanted children, and today, one in four New Zealand women will, at some point in her life procure the murder of a child in her womb. Such statistics as these, which would have been utterly unimaginable in 1950’s New Zealand are simply a reflection of a people who are losing their ability to love, and for whom the most important consideration is the freedom to do as they like.
As hundreds of extinct cultures demonstrate, this self-centred living inevitably leads to destruction (because moral collapse leads to economic collapse which leads to political collapse.) -Prov.14:12, Rom.8:13. Therefore God decrees that learning to love must be our great priority: first, to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and secondly, to love our neighbour as ourselves (Mk.12:30-31). Now, this order, in which we first love God and then secondly to love our neighbour is not only right but necessary, for the love of God is the ground of real and consistent love for our neighbour. We may demonstrate that this is true if we illustrate love with the colour blue.
There are colours which, though they are blue-ish, are not purely blue because of the addition of other colours. Turquoise may be called blue, but it is really blue mixed with green; purple is a kind of blue, but is less than blue because of the addition of red; grey is blue contaminated with black, and so forth. But when we see the royal blue of a summer sky, we say, “Surely this is the definition of blue!” In the same way, when doing some good deed, we may imagine that we are driven by love, but it is always love mixed with self-interest. It is genuine love perhaps, but love mixed with the accompanying desire to be loved and well-thought of. Or love indeed, yet nevertheless a love alloyed with self-righteousness or with pride so that what we call love is not in fact the true colour of love. We do not find the true definition of love within our own opinions and feelings, but rather, in the pure and perfect love of God. Thus, Jesus’ commandment is to “love one another, as I have loved you” (Jn.15:12). The starting place in our education is to study and know the love of God, that we may understand what love we are to show to others. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sin” (I Jn.4:10). In other words, only those whose eyes have been opened to God by the renewing and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and know that the blood shed at Calvary was to atone for their sins – only these are capable of reflecting to the world that pure and selfless love that it craves. “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love”. (I Jn.4:7-8) When Paul says, “If I do not have love, I am nothing” (ICor.13:1-2), he is not speaking of that adulterated love of our divided hearts, but that pure and beautiful thing that God calls love.
Dear one, if I asked whether you are a loving person, you could no doubt show me examples of your kindness, but what is the colour of the love you show? Is it that clear, pure love which is always patient and long-suffering with the ungrateful? Is it that bright and burning love that never draws a line, saying, “No further than this”? Does your love change the appearance every lost and polluted soul so that your heart yearns for them to have life? If we are honest, we must all admit that our love is a rather shabby grey compared to this, Then, let us not be as the self-satisfied Pharisee, who prayed, “Lord, I thank thee that I am not as other men are,” but realize that our greatest need is to learn to love as we should. Though faith may move mountains and hope may sustain us in our darkest days, yet love is the greatest thing of all. If we would be that light of the world that we are called to be, let us aspire to love as God loves.