And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. 2 John 1:6a
"Love is the morning and the evening star..."
Robert Ingersoll's paean to a generic "love" is satirically misquoted throughout Sinclair Lewis' Elmer Gantry. Has a certain ring to it, reckoned revival preacher Gantry and he was banking that his audience had never heard of Ingersoll. You can check out the actual quote here:
Ingersoll was a well-known American agnostic in the late 19th century. Back to that in a moment.
I am thinking of a line from a film I recently watched called Pavilion of Women. The movie is based on Pearl S. Buck's 1946 novel of the same name.
The main character, Madame Wu, is speaking of her twenty-something son's love for a woman who is married to another man. "Can love be a sin?" she asks Andre, an American priest who (unbeknownst to her, or maybe not) holds similar feelings for Madame Wu.
"Love can never be a sin," he replies earnestly.
What do you think?
Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our being. He also said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."
So did Buck or Ingersoll have any notion of a truly biblical definition of love?
I'm not writing this to hate on either of these two people, one a professing Christian, the other not.
"God is love (1 John 4:8;16)." You hear that tossed around a lot, don't you? It's been used as the rationale for all sorts of things.
Universalism (everybody goes to heaven). A casual approach to worship. A famous pastor's wife recently said in effect that God loves us so much, he just wants us to be happy ("worship is not about God, it's about YOU!"). It's even used as justification for all kinds of previously forbidden love (including the afore-mentioned adultery).
Well, of course, love is one of God's characteristics. There are others, as well. How about this one?
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory (Isaiah 6:3b).
Here's another: God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day (Psalm 7:11).
God's love, then, is a holy love, a righteous love, a just love. In other words, God (being God) is the standard by which we measure all things. Including love.
I suppose a useful rule of thumb would be that any love that we place before our love of God is indeed a sinful love. An idol, in fact.