Jesus made it very clear that the basis of the Law and Prophets was love, not legalism. I mean, there is a lot of legality in the Law – it’s the law! And, there is a lot of uncovering in the prophets as well as promise – it’s reveal-a-tion! However, understanding the bedrock strata from which these elements derive is critical to understanding what to do with them.
In the New Testament sense, we see a fullness and fulfillment of Law and Prophets, never the destruction or deconstruction of them. In the modern sense, we see an effort to avoid the legality and uncovering in favor of a modern definition of “love.” It is, however, a bit more complex than the modern oversimplification of “love” would have you believe. By that I mean that the intention of God behind Law and Prophets intensifies in redemptive grace. It is not muddled away with the shallow slush of human sentimentality.
God is Love, so defining love in any other way but “divine” always leaves us with an inferior experience of the love upon which all the Law and Prophets rest. God is Love: so to function in the love that will bring these eternal elements to fullness, we need divine love.
There are many words that help us communicate “love,” but Paul devoted a whole chapter to explaining the experience of the Divine, and a lot of the chapter tells what love is not and how love operates. He did so because “love” has counterfeits, that are really “hate” dressed up in human selfishness.
Love is Passionate, Burning Desire for a Purpose
Love is a choice, a function of the will, and the strength of love depends upon strength of will. Love instantly thins our as it encounters selfish or self-serving intentions. Love is sacrificial. Love seeks the highest and best for its object, at the expense of the one releasing passionate, burning desire. Love invests value in its object by valuing the purpose of that object.
To know “the love of God” is a spiritual revelation, not an academic or artistic conclusion. Talking about love, writing about love, entertaining the trappings of love do not move us one step closer to experiencing love, and may move us rapidly away from that authentic experience. For the most part, divine love is experienced through trust. The strongest expressions of love are experienced through created roles and relationships, like parental, maternal, and marital love.
In every human sense, love is properly sacrificial and unselfish: “No man can have greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friend.” “Laying down your life” doesn’t mean an heroic moment when you step in to take a bullet to save your friend’s life. “Laying down your life” means devotional sacrifice to the purpose within that friend: in other words, if you “love” a friend for what that friend gives you, you aren’t loving that friend like God loves them. Burning passionate desire for purpose means that you “love” your friend so much that you are poured out wine and broken bread that sacrifices for the fullness of his destiny.
“For God so loved that He gave…” God bankrupted Himself and heaven of the Highest and Best, the All of Heaven. God said, “In terms of the destinies of men and the purposes of Creation, I’m all in!” He did this before He created any of them! He did this for no other reason but He wanted to. He willed and decided, chose and intended, and His burning, passionate desire was invested in people! Not for profit but for passion!
To know the dimensions or extensions of God’s love is to experience Him through trust, faith, sacrifice, decision, and surrender. Thus, His love begins to transform the sources of human love, and His burning passion for purpose begins to redefine our highest and lowest and order everything else in between.
Love as Sentiment and Selfish Utilitarianism
Love as conquest must only and alway be focused upon purpose. We cannot appropriate people with sentiment to fulfill personal need or seek personal fulfillment. To say we “love” another person and our deepest need is to find our own value, feel needed, fill an emptiness, or appropriate that person with the deeper motivation to experience love by our own definition is to “seek our own.”
“Love your neighbor as yourself” may become your mantra for narcissism. Using people to fill an empty place in your life, to prove you are not like the person who rejected you or abused you, or seeking to find your own value or meaning in other people’s affections and attentions isn’t love from a divine perspective. It drives a stake only deep enough to support a banner for your own