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"That Love Which Is Of God"

Chapter XII



No discussion of love would ever be complete without recognizing that love's gift is itself and its joy is in giving itself to others. This truth all begins with John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave ..." and I John 3:16: "Hereby perceive we the love of God, ..." because He gave. In Romans 5:8, we again see this: "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners,..." God gave. Love (agape) cannot truly give less than its best to others, as "God gave his only..." and we are to "follow in His steps."

This act of love (giving) is magnified in II Corinthians 8, where we find that even in deep poverty, love (agape) still found, at great sacrifice, were willing to give (verse 2). In fact, their giving under this great poverty was a "beyond themselves" kind of love (agape). And this was love (agape) giving because we read in verse 8 "to prove the sin-cerity of your love (agape)," and again, "the proof of your love." Love's greatest banner or existence is the power to give; it exists solely to give itself away and that never its tattered or broken, but its best.

Israel was rebuked for such shallow giving in Malachi 1:7, 13: "Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the Lord is contemptible...Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? said the LORD."

In Christian circles today we see this kind of giving. Given are the dollars left over from the color TV payment, from new auto payment or repair, etc. God is seldom found to be before any payment, repair or necessities of life such as food, etc. Rather, He has our leftovers, unneeded, etc.

In what is often given there is no rejoicing. Hence the gift was not given of love (agape) but of burden, of duty or of other nonrejoicing reasons. Agape-love giving is to that who cannot return.

Listen to Christ in Matthew 5:43-46. "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you; and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father hwich is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?" Continued thought along this line is found in Luke 6:32-35. "For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinnes also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. 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, and ye shall be the hcildren of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil." Real love (agape) gives its best to those who do not want it, "but God commendeth (proved) His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners..."

What is a sinner in relation to God and His love? Romans 8:7-8 says, "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." The fleshly mind of man is against God. We are also told in James 4:4, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."

Here friendship with the world, "among whom we all had our [behavior] in times past..." (Ephesians 2:3), is declared to set us still further as the enemy of God. Still, beloved, while in this position toward God, God loved us. Love (agape) is proved in "deep poverty," when exercised in unlovely times and situations. Herein is love's great joy because it actually thrives in this dark scene.

Note Romans 5:20 where "...grace (God's favor by love) did much more abound" with the increase of sin-knowledge. This is the whole meaning of I Corinthians 13: 4-8 concerning love, that when circumstances are in oppo-sition, true agape-love will not, even then, fail to act without true utmost honor, dignity and mercy. But who would know unless such circumstances had not tested love?

True agape rejoicing is in giving itself under circumstances strongly against it. When it is easy and justifiable to be curt, short, unforgiving, doubtful, envious, suspicious, etc. Then will (agape) love take control (if allowed) and in its great joy will give itself to the suspected, the questionable, the misbehaving, and will search out how to serve them in some way. True agape-love just cannot prefer self above other, cannot be unkind or ungentle. When these ensue is it not becaue of a lack of Christ-like, spiritual maturity or God controlling within? This does not mean we do not reprove or rebuke. It does mean there will be spirit control as to how one does such.

Jesus reproved the wicked with a whip (John 2:15) and strong words (Matthew 23), but He reproved the ignorant with gentle yet strong truth (John 3). Jesus was always the fulfillment of His own word, "...and the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men..."

The Holy Spirit's title, "Comforter," carries the idea with it of encourager, cheerer, etc. Would that God's people would be filled with this kind of spirit, rather than that of "bitter envying and strife in your hearts...not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish (demoniacal)" James 3:14-15). Love's greatest joy is to produce joy in others. John 15:11: "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."

It is quickly agreed that often joy cannot come without conviction, repentance and cleansing confession, and that to help produce joy, honest truth of sin must be given. Yet even in this there will be in love (agape) a "servant of you" (Matthew 20:27) attitude, a meekness (Galatians 6:1), an "other better than themself" (Philippians 2:3) spirit. Without this attitude the spirit is carnal and fleshly. Self-servant-hood, self-crucifixion, self-lower-than-other is the giving of love (agape) under pressure and enticement of self-exalt-ation. See Matthew 4:1-11 for Christ's own reaction.

Love (agape) is always an encouragement to be around: even to the sinner it speaks of forgiveness and received joy and points "tenderly" to confession. Love (agape) is not public with reproof. After long suffering under a burden of concern and offense for a loved party, will a lover speak openly, but then with tenderness and weeping,without desire to do more damage than the sin has done or is doing. Matthew 23:37: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not."

Love (agape) always reproves with the vision of sincere hope for the other to return to love. Agape-love's goal in reproof is always, "I still love you. Please return that I may lavish you once again with my affection."

Many modern "reprovers" reprove with such a spirit that says, "I hope you are destroyed." They probably would react as Jonah did if the object of the reproof did "repent" by their standard of necessity. God tells us that Jonah's reaction was, "but it displeased Jonah exceeding, and he was very angry" (Jonah 4:1). God's comment was, "Doest thou well to be angry?" (Jonah 4:4).

I believe that this angry spirit is the one which prevails within many of God's reprovers today. These reprovers are often right, in what they charge, but their attitude is Johan's and it is a sin itself. They have become, as God indicts in James 5:9-11, "Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." These "judges of the law" (James 4:11) have taken themselves out from under the law as its victim and have stood interpreting that law for others, allowing themselves to disobey the same, whereupon they are fallen under what God declared in Romans 2:1-3: "Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou con-demnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth agaisnt them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?"

Some feel they are God's prosecutors when in fact the Holy Spirit is. Each saint is under the law of "esteeming other better than themselves."

Love is God's joy within the heart and when that love (agape) is controlling, there will be rejoicing and sweetness in everything one does and says. There will be genuine hope and encouraging in all one is and says, eternal optimism bubbling up from within. "Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living waters" (John 7:38).