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What does the Bible say about love? Is love always nice?

There have always been many errors about the meaning of love. Perhaps the biggest mistake is that many people believe that love means always being nice and kind to everyone. People these days are being taught that love means simply tolerating anything. But anyone who has ever thoroughly studied the Bible has surely quickly noticed that love is by no means simply equated with kindness and excessive tolerance. Love can be nice, but often it isn’t.

Since Jesus taught us that we should love both God and our neighbor, it should be of the highest importance for every believer to get a correct understanding of love and know how to implement it in life.

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:35-40)

Love means sacrifice

Love is the willingness to do everything to ensure that someone else is well. This means acting selflessly and putting the well-being of others above your own, which often includes the sacrifice of your own will or your own well-being.

For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. (John 6:38)

And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26:39)

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

If a billionaire donates $ 1,000,000, it may be a large sum, but in the end it didn’t cost him a great deal of sacrifice because he lives in abundance without it. But if someone only owns 10 € and donates it, then they have done more than the billionaire. € 10 is much less than € 1,000,000, but a good deed is not measured by obvious things, but by the attitude of the heart. The person who donated € 10 was ready to sacrifice everything they had without thinking about themselves. In the Bible we find the example of the poor widow that clearly resembles this:

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living. (Mark 12:41-44)

Love doesn’t ask for anything in return

Another important quality of love is it’s absolute unconditionally. If someone does something for someone else, he should do it without asking for anything back. If someone does good only when his conditions are met or he benefits from it in some other way, that person is not acting out of love but for his own sake. Conditional love is not love. Such an act is of no value in God’s eyes (compare Luke 6: 27-35 below).

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

Love is not about yourself

We find a detailed description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Here it is described in detail that love acts selflessly and is not concerned with its own wellbeing. In the end, love has absolutely nothing to do with you, but only with the desire to do good to someone else. Because love is not a give and take, as many people today wrongly assume. Love is ONLY giving. Love is never about yourself.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

When you truly love someone, you don’t care if you get anything in return. If someone asks for something back, they haven’t done anything. We should love even those who hate us or treat us badly. Someone who divorced their spouse just because they treated them badly has never really loved their partner. Jesus even allowed himself to be crucified for his love for God and the people.

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners 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 children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. (Luke 6:27-35)

The old testament shows us that love can also be hard

The greatest proof that love can be harsh can be found in the Old Testament. Many people would call God in the Old Testament downright cruel. Most of them will have probably heard of the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the Exodus. Even if these stories may sound harsh, one must not forget that God has always acted out of love.

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

God sent the flood over the world to stamp out the bad and sinful people from the earth. He only allowed Noah and his descendants to survive, since Noah was obedient to God’s will. Everyone can probably imagine for themselves what would have happened if God hadn’t done that. Sinful people would have brought more and more sinful children into the world who would live miserable life as slaves of evil. At the end of their limited, suffering life, they would all have died and not entered eternal life. 

Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (1 Corinthians 15:33)

But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:13)

God had also cracked down on the Israelites in the desert. He gave them rules and laws to obey. And with some laws that were particularly important, God announced that those who did not obey should be stamped out. God did this out of love as well. This approach had several purposes. Because everyone knew that they would have to die if they broke that law, hardly anyone dared to break it. Second, by doing this, God kept His people from being corrupted from within. Because people who do bad usually tend to seduce other people into sin. With God’s strict action, this danger has been greatly reduced. Ultimately, He just wanted to give people a beautiful and fulfilling life in close communion with Him. But surely this was only possible if they also adhered to his statutes.

But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him. (Numbers 15:30-31)

Love also means to rebuke

If someone has a child who loves to eat sweets, is that person acting out of love if they just let it happen? Of course not. Parents who did not prevent their child from eating too much unhealthy things, like sweets, would be doing their child a disservice. Even if the child may not understand it at this moment and may find it nasty or bad, it is still right to prevent it. In this case, love would show itself through hardness, even if the child sees it completely differently. And so it is with many things that God teaches us. A disobedient child who harms himself must definitely be stopped.

My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. (Proverbs 3:11-13)

Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. (Leviticus 19:17)

When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. (Ezekiel 33:8-9)

Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily. (Colossians 1: 28-29)

Love doesn’t mean just letting everything go through. It also often manifests itself in reproof. Jesus certainly did not always tolerate everything. Even if many would like to believe that today. When the merchants defiled the holy temple of God with their greed, he drove them out of the temple by force and whips (cf. Matthew 21: 12-13, John 2: 13-16). This is certainly not a gesture that would be described as loving today. And yet it was an act of love towards his God and Father.

Jesus also taught us that we must be willing to leave our family and friends behind for him. But now many would claim that it would be contrary to love to simply turn your back on your family or friends and break off contact with them. Jesus did not even allow his followers to say good bye to their families or to bury deceased relatives. These are all things that people today would find nasty and cold-hearted precisely because they don’t have a real understanding of love.

And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:61-62)

And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead. (Matthew 8: 21-22)

Love for God is expressed in obedience

The love for God is not revealed by going to church every Sunday and singing pious songs there or by repeatedly declaring how much one loves God or Jesus, but rather by obedience to his word and commandments . Jesus himself said that it is not enough to call him “Lord”, but that he only confesses to those who obey his words.

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. (John 14:21)

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23)

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. (1 John 5:2-3)

An example of this can also be found in the Old Testament. There God asked Abraham to offer his son as an offering for Him. Ultimately, however, God stopped Abraham from actually killing his son. Because He just wanted to see whether Abraham would have been ready to do anything for God and whether he truly trusted Him. By willing to sacrifice his own child for God, Abraham demonstrated his infinite love for God. By these things you can easily see that love does not always have to do with being nice and that you have to be prepared to make sacrifices. Because, ultimately, love is often the opposite of what people consider “friendly” today.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (James 2:21-24)

Jesus even went so far as to reject his own will and to be crucified for the love of God. And that even though he knew what pain and suffering he would face. At the end of the day, the greatest evidence of love for God is to give up your own life and follow Him.

And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26:39)

But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence. (John 14:31)

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:25)

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

Love does not act of its own accord

Very often, the problem with implementing love is that people just don’t know what is best for someone else. That is why they usually act at their own discretion. But to act at one’s own discretion is in turn contrary to love. Because if you perform an act of charity, you don’t do it for yourself, but for the other.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

For example, it would not be an act of love to give a beggar money and tell him that he is only allowed to buy certain things. Because as already mentioned before, this act would not be selfless, but rather selfish, because you want to decide what the beggar does with the money.

Only those who obey God’s Will always act out of love

Another problem is that you just don’t know who to give money to, for example. And that is exactly why one should always obey God’s will. Because often well-intentioned assistance is followed by bad things that you might not even have in mind. Even Jesus said that he himself was not good and only acted according to the will of the Father who sent him.

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. (Mark 10:17-18)

I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (John 5:30)

Here’s an example: if someone likes a certain type of chocolates, they may think that their friend would like those chocolates as well. Then he goes and gives this friend these chocolates. But maybe his friend doesn’t like these pralines at all. Worse still: Perhaps the friend could also have a peanut allergy and end up in the hospital because of the peanuts contained in the praline. This is just a small example of possible the consequences. Well-intentioned things could turn out much more serious than a peanut allergy. A person’s judgment is not enough to really do good. Those who only act at their own discretion will hardly be able to do someone good or even actually help someone. Only those who always obey God’s will always act out of love.

That is precisely why the Spirit of God was sent as a helper to guide us. Because it is not us humans who determine what is good and we cannot even know it exactly. But God alone is good and with his help we can succeed in our mission. Just as parents often know what is good for their children, God knows best what is good for each and every person. That is why a person can only always act out of love if he always adheres to the will of God.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Conclusion

Sometimes God deliberately sends His children into difficult situations that they might prefer to have been spared of. But God does that , as most of you know, only out of love. He just wants to help us to get better and stronger and to grow closer to Him. Love is not always the fulfillment of what we think we want. Just because we don’t understand or understand something doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen out of love. If we really want to understand love and live it, we have to observe the example that our Father in heaven has sent us and become imitators in the spirit.

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. (1 John 4:7)

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16)

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