By Pastor Glenn Pease
Tradition says that John the Apostle of love was carried to the Christian assembly when he was so old he could not walk, and his constant advice was, "Children love one another." When he was asked why he told them one thing all the time he replied that nothing else was needed. On the other hand, William Morris wrote a song titled Love Is Enough, and a critic reviewed it very briefly by writing, "It isn't." It is no real problem to chose between these two points of view, because love is such a complex subject that it is filled with paradoxes, and just about anything can be true about love.
God is love; therefore, love is a subject that gets us into the infinite. We do not have to even approach that, however, to recognize its complexity. It is important that we grow in our understanding of the complexity of love, for only as we do can be avoid blunders, and gain blessings connected with love. A man came to John Wesley and asked him about a certain woman well known to both of them. Wesley advised him not to marry her. "Why not" was his question, "for she is a member in good standing in your church isn't she?" He admitted it but said, "The Lord can live with a great many people you and I can't." Lesley was wise, and recognized that even romantic love and brotherly love combined does not guarantee compatibility. Love is not enough.
The fact that the New Testament places it at the top as the highest and most valuable virtue does not contradict this. The fact that having all else without love is to be nothing does not mean if you have love all else is unnecessary. Peter does not imply that after love is added you can neglect all the other virtues. This is like saying, after you get the top story built, you could knock the rest of the building down. Love is only effective and truly Christian love when it is built on the foundation of all the other virtues. As soon as this is forgotten love becomes sentimental, and is reduced to an emotion, and its power is gone. But when love is bold, knowledgeable, persevering, godly, and extended in all directions, upward to God, outward to others, and inward to self, then it can be said, love is enough. Love is only enough when it is complete, and it is complete when it includes everything of value, which is equivalent to saying everything is enough.
This becomes clear as we study love from a scientific point of view as Sorokin does in his book The Ways And Power Of Love. He has established the fact that love has five dimensions, and all five are Biblical, and they put love on a level where it can be measured. The first dimension of love is-
Love, like faith, is a matter of degree. To say a man has love is not much more revealing than to say he has a temperature. It could be normal or high or even low. If you say he has 105 degrees, that reveals much, and the difference is in the intensity. So it is with love. A man might feed the pigeons, and give up his seat on the bus, and, therefore, be described as having love, but this is love of a very low intensity. Love can be so low it is at the zero mark, and describes one who just does not hurt anyone, but may be indifferent to going out of his way to help anyone. When one's acts fall below this he is in the realm of hate. Love grows in intensity as higher values in life are involved. If I give of my money I love in greater intensity than if I merely pity. If I give of my time and risk my health to aid another I love with greater intensity yet, and if I sacrifice my life for others I love with the greatest intensity. Jesus confirms this, for He says greater love hath no man than that he lay down his life for a friend. Jesus, therefore, loved us with the greatest intensity possible, in that he died for us. Many have followed Christ in this dimension, and have loved with the highest intensity by giving their lives for others. However, as we go on we shall see that no one has been able to follow Him in all dimensions of love. Intensity is measured by the value of the sacrifice made for another.
In intensity, love can go from zero to infinity, which is the love of God. In extensity, love can go from love of one-yourself, to love of all men, all creatures, and all creation. As our love extends it becomes more Christlike. We begin with a self-love which is natural, and then family love, and then friend love, and then group or race love, and then national love. Most of these loves are natural, and most normal men will have all of these loves in varying degrees of intensity.
One may not lay down his life for a friend, but will for his nation, and so it is a love of greater extensity of the highest intensity.
Christ demands an extensity of love that goes beyond what the natural man has. He goes even beyond the love of other races, people, and nations. He demands an extensity of love that reaches out even to one's enemies. He said if you love only those who love you, you are no different than the heathen who have that kind of love. Jesus not only taught it, and required it; He practiced the highest extensity of love by dying, not just for His own, but for all men. If Jesus had been just a Jewish Messiah, His love would be no different than any other great deliverer.
No man can follow Christ in his extensity of love, for it is not in anyone's capacity to demonstrate love for all men who have ever lived, and who ever will. Jesus is the only example of perfect extensity of love. We cannot attain this level, and we are not expected to. Being Christlike is not being identical to Christ, for this is impossible, and this should be made clear, for some thinking we are to be equal to Christ reject Christianity as impossible. Dorthy L. Sayers, responding to the high claims of Christ wrote,
Thou liest, Christ, thou liest; take it hence,
That mirror of strange glories. I am I;
What wouldst thou make of me? O cruel pretence,
Drive me not mad so with the mockery
Of that most lovely, unattainable lie.
It is both deceptive and destructive to convey to people that an unattainable ideal is expected. Whatever God expects is attainable, and He expects perfection of love, therefore, we must recognize perfection in us is not the same as it was in Christ. Our limits are far greater. We do not have the capacity to love as He did, but we can love with all the capacity we have, and that is to be Christlike. To imitate Christ is not to duplicate Him. This means that though we can love as intensively as Christ in laying down our lives, we cannot love intensively as extensively. That is, we cannot lay down our lives for all men. Nevertheless, we are to love all men with the intensity of which we are capable. This means we love most men with zero degree, or slightly above, in intensity.
It can be scientifically demonstrated that the more extensive our love gets, the less intensive it gets. A love that is really on fire, and fills a man with drive and power, is a very narrow love. Our love for God is to be very intensive, with all our heart, mind, and soul, but this is not expected in the command to love all men. We cannot love all men with our whole being. We can so love our mate and children, however, and that is why they alone present a danger of idolatry. Only when the extensity of our love is very narrow can we love with idolatrous intensity, and that is why only those nearest to us are rivals with our love for God. This does not mean we can love anyone too much, but only too much relative to our love for God. All are to be loved less than God.
At this point it is well to point out that the love we are talking about is not a feeling or emotion. Emotion is a factor, but if you take that as the factor of measurement, you are in serious trouble. We have emotions right along that are far more intensive toward our loved ones than we do toward God. If emotion is the measuring rod, we love many persons, and even things, more intensely than God. But if loyalty is the test, it is a different story. If there is a conflict between the will of God, and the will of one you love, and you chose to obey God, you reveal that He is indeed your God, and not another for whom you have greater emotions.
The value of studying love in its dimensions of intensity and extensity is that it does help you to get a more practical concept of love. It enables you to measure your love, and be more realistic, and aware of your limitations. If you say you love the Japanese people, or any other people, remember that without action toward them your love is extensive, but its intensity is near zero, and of little benefit. Christ alone combines a love of universal extensity and absolute intensity. Therefore, the greatest act of love you can perform is to help fulfill the great commission that men everywhere might come to know this love of Christ.
Love can be momentary or eternal, or anywhere in between. There is the puppy love experience that comes and goes, and the lasting love of marriage that goes through a lifetime, and on into eternity. A very intense love can be very short lived. A soldier can suddenly risk his life and dash out into the battlefield to rescue a buddy. If he survives, the next day he may be living a very normal self-centered life with little concern for his buddy. Maybe even ten minutes after this intense act of love his concern may be over. On the other hand, an act of low intensity love may go on for years. It could be simply appreciation for your paperboy or someone else who provides a service. The ideal, of course, is to have an intense love with an eternal duration. Again, Christ alone can love with an everlasting love with absolute intensity. His love never fails, but he says of Christians that trials will cause the love of many to grow cold. This is where love and perseverance go hand in hand. We must possess perseverance if our love is to be durable. The more Christlike we are the more durable our love will be. We often just love um and leave um. This is true with our interests in various people and projects. Ideal love endures.
Let me quote Sorokin directly on this, "The purity of love ranges from the love motivated by love alone without the taint of a "soiling motive" of utility, pleasure, advantage, or profit, down to the "soiled love" where love is but a means to a utilitarian or hedonistic or other end, where love is only the thinnest trickle in a muddy current of selfish aspirations and purposes." To love God out of fear of hell, for example, is a very impure love. Or to love men because their company builds up your ego and reputation. There is every degree of purity of love just as all other dimensions have a variety of degrees. It is measured by the presence or the absence of selfishness in your motive. Most all of our love has some degree of selfishness, and so again only Christ has love that is perfectly pure.
5.The Adequacy of Love.
If our love is adequate, our subjective goal leads to objective consequences which are identical to it. This becomes easier to grasp if we look at it negatively. Inadequate love may be a very genuine and intense love which acts in such a way so as to lead to consequences opposite of its goal. Sorokin selects the most common example to illustrate. A mother who intensely desires her children to be honest, industrious and good, but who pampers them, fails to discipline them, and satisfies all their whims. Those objective consequences are irresponsible, lazy and dishonest children. The subjective love of the mother is true and real and sincere, but it does not lead to the goal of love, and, therefore, is a very inadequate love. So we see that a truly Christlike love is dependent ujpo9n knowledge to be adequate. Love without knowledge is just not enough. With an intense love to cure your child you can in ignorance give him a poison and kill him. Such love is inadequate no matter how intense. Christian love must be love that is not blind, but a love that walks in the light.
Another form of inadequate love is when you act with no subjective love aim in mind, but your act leads to objective consequences of love. Many creative people create works of art, or literature, only for fame or money, but which lead many to be lifted and helped. the consequences are loving even if the aim was selfish. This is not Christian love. Christian love must have a subjective aim, and again only Christ has the wisdom to be able to have perfect harmony between his aim and the consequences. The great saints of history are those who have been able to combine in a high degree all 5 of these dimensions of love. These are all needed for love to be Christlike, and only then is love enough.