Of all possible emotions, love is the greatest. There is a sense in which love even eclipses both faith and hope (see 1 Corinthians 13:13). Faith (trust) and hope are stimulated by love; all three will abide, but love is the greatest because it will empower the saint into greater adventures of trust and the realization of never-ending promises.
It is perhaps the nature of the case that the thing most precious is sometimes that which is most abused — and so it is with love. Let us reflect upon two broad categories that illustrate how love is abused.
“Love” as a Rationalization
Love is abused when one entertains the notion that he can get by with doing evil under the guise “God loves me, therefore he will not condemn me.” Legions entertain this myth. That is why, in the viewpoint of many, rarely ever does a person die lost. It is alleged that God simply would not permit a person he has created and loves to be lost. His love is too marvelous for that.
If that is the case, why did Christ have to die? If Heaven’s love covers sin unconditionally, the death of the Savior was absolutely for nothing! The entire thrust of the Bible is opposed to this misguided idea.
Our mistreatment of others also is rationalized under the umbrella of love. If you love me, you won’t fret that I borrowed your car without asking. If you love me, you won’t insist that I repay the money I owe you. On and on the excuses go — each buttressed in the name of “love.”
What a gross abuse of “love” it is for two people who are not married to become sexually intimate, using the rationale, “We love one another.” God has forbidden sexual intercourse outside of marriage; the sin is called “fornication” (1 Corinthians 7:2). Human emotion (or hormonal urge) does not negate sacred law.
“But we were in love” is a common rationalization of those who would justifyadulterating their marriage, or the marriage of another. “Love” never is a license to sin.
“Love” as a Defense Mechanism
One of the most common misuses of love is the attempt to ward off a kindly Christian chastisement with the charge, “You are not a loving person.” Such a disposition not only reflects a serious level of stubborn ingratitude, it evidences a manifest ignorance of scripture.
Note this text: “My son, regard not lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved of him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines” (Hebrews 12:5; cf. Proverbs 3:11). Dare we complain and pout when hardships come our way (which could be providential admonitions)? The mature child of God will be thankful, even in times of stress, that the Lord loves him.
It is not uncommon for youngsters, in their immature way of evaluating the events of life, to feel that their parents do not love them, because of restrictions that are placed upon them. They will learn better when they have their own children—if they don’t destroy themselves by their youthful foolishness before they reach that point.
Elders who attempt to lead the church in disciplinary procedures against wayward members of the congregation are frequently accused of being “unloving” (yet see 1 Corinthians 5:5). How insensitive ungodly people can be, their understanding almost totally bereft of what true love involves. Paul once inquired of the foolish Christians of Galatia: “Have I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (4:16). He might well have phrased it like this: “Do you think I no longer love you because I tell you the truth?”
Preachers are charged similarly. “He doesn’t preach with love!” Perhaps some do not. Frequently, however, this is a defense mechanism.
A minister of God can spend his days and nights helping people; he can teach them rich truth, listen patiently to them in times of trouble, give them assistance in hours of financial crunch, help them in days of family crises, and assist them in burying their dead — occasionally with minimal gratitude. But when he feels the need to admonish them, because of a weakness or worldliness in their lives, suddenly he has become “unloving.” Figure that out!
Sin clouds a person’s vision. It distorts reality. It generates a defensive, retaliatory disposition. It turns true love, the agape kind (that which acts in another’s best interest), into something ugly and hateful.
There is nothing more painful to the loving person than having his/her love rejected; there is nothing so wretched as rejecting true love1.