was no preacher but he proclaimed a message in song we all intuitively
understand: love is the crucial ingredient to bring healing and wholeness
to the world. "What the world needs now" is not about love as romantic
attraction or adulation for another person - the love the world needs is
much deeper than that. Yet, there is great confusion about the
meaning of love, not only in the society at large, but even among
those who claim to follow Yeshua.
Most of us understand that love involves compassion for others. In the
world outside the conservative Christian and Messianic Jewish
communities, there are some who believe compassion should move us to
allow homosexuals to marry and to serve openly in the military. (The last
has now been approved in the United States). In addition, they encourage
tolerance for people to have no-fault divorces. Love, they say, compels
us to have generous welfare and free high-tech medical services. Love
seems to be bankrupting our country. The world also tells us that we
should seek justice. Usually justice is defined as equality. If men and
women are not treated in the same way, or if income distribution is not
exactly equal, then society is unjust and unloving.
The Idea of Love without Moral Standards
This definition of love is mere humanistic sentiment. The basic concept
of love in popular culture does not take into account that love is
connected to judgment and related to enforcing standards; instead "love"
is understood to mean encouraging people to do whatever they want, when
and wherever they want, so that they may feel personally fulfilled (as
long as it does not directly hurt someone else). Enforcing standards is
In some Christian circles we are encouraged to allow divorce without any
eldership court to render a decision as to whether a divorce with an
allowance of remarriage is justified. Some church leaders teach that even
the pastor who divorces his wife and marries his secretary should be
embraced and allowed to continue in his role. Anything less (they say) is
not loving or forgiving and, "after all, divorce is no worse than
other sins." But are all sins equal? Though any sin without blood
atonement is enough to condemn us, is it just as sinful to contemplate
vengeance, as it is to commit murder? Or is murder not worse than
stealing? Biblically unjustified divorce is devastatingly wrong and has
terrible effects on children and on our whole society.
God is Love
The Bible tells us "God is love." (I John 4:16) It is the deepest
part of His character. Yet it also tells us that God is a judge to be
feared. In the book of Exodus we read the definition of God's
character that in the Jewish tradition is called the Thirteen Attributes of
The LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and
proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses
proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to
thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not
leave the guilty unpunished, he punishes the children and their children
for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."
This passage clearly shows us the character of God. The God who is love
and acts in love, also punishes sin.
A Biblical Definition of Love with Justice
So what is love? My conclusion after an empirical reading of Scripture is
"Love is the compassionate identification with others that seeks their
good. Their good is defined by God's intended destiny for them."
Nothing contrary to God's standards is love because God's destiny
for human beings can only be according to His standards of righteousness
for all human beings.
This means that true love is guided by biblical law. Without
biblical law, we are left only with mere sentiment. A just order is one
that enables people to fulfill their God-intended destiny, but an unjust
order prevents or hinders the fulfillment of that destiny. Justice is not
equality except in terms of those scriptural norms where all humans
(created in the image of God), are to be treated with respect, dignity
and to be equal before the courts with regard to crime and punishment.
This definition of love includes the place of emotion.
Compassionate identification enables us to put ourselves in the shoes of
other people and to feel an emotional compassion that motivates us to act
for their good. Not everyone is called to have equal wealth as in a
Marxist definition of justice, but a just order must be one where
responsible persons have sufficient wealth to fulfill their calling to
perform good works for the sake of the kingdom. Compassionate
identification also encompasses our love for God because true love is
only possible if one perceives the worth of the object of love. Because
we are made in the image of God we can identify with God and love Him for
who He is. In so doing we become in awe of His beauty, goodness, love and
justice and want to partner with Him for the fulfillment of His own
destiny: to see all humanity love Him, submit to His rule, and
acknowledge His Son Yeshua, our Savior and King. This destiny is
everlasting loving fellowship!
True love ensures the enforcement of standards. When standards are
allowed to be violated, it inevitably leads to a whole order of injustice
and sin which will end up preventing many from fulfilling their destinies
and will destroy love. Love only flourishes in a just order.
Children of divorce find it more difficult to fulfill their God ordained
destiny. A society that does not value marriage leads to much
destruction. Social orders, where the powerful in business are in league
with government powers to prevent real creative competition, will
decrease the wealth creation that enables many more to prosper and to
fulfill their destinies.
Love is not merely a subjective feeling, but feeling is part of love.
Love has objective content that is key to God's kind of love and
forgiveness becoming manifest in the world. This ideal of compassionate
identification with the other that seeks their good is only possible
by the transforming work of Yeshua in our lives, by the power of the
Spirit. He enables us to truly love.