Unless our ‘love’ reflects a genuine care and respect
for the other person, it isn’t love. William Barclay suggests
that the Greek word porneia, prostitution, is rooted
in the verb pernumi- to sell(1). If our love is the love
which is bought and sold, which goes to the highest bidder, which
treats its object as a thing which can be discarded, or ‘loved’
without truly intimate union… then it’s actually a
form of prostitution. Each time we ditch a friend because the
going got tough, withheld love because we weren’t getting
from it what we intended… we’re essentially showing
a spirit of prostitution rather than love. This is why love in
the end must always find practical expression in a self-sacrificial
way. The Corinthians were to show the sincerity of their love
[implying there can be a fake ‘love’] by their generosity
to the poor believers in Judea (2 Cor. 8:7,8,24).
- We can think that we are devoting ourselves to the Lord's cause
over and above that which is required of us- when actually, we
do nothing of the sort. We can give to the Lord's cause, when
actually we have only got round the essential intention of God's
commandments to be generous-spirited and show a true love (Mt.
15:5,6). The Jews fasted on days which the Law did not require
of them; but in God's ultimate analysis, they did this for themselves,
to bolster their own spiritual ego, rather than as a fast which
he recognized (Zech. 7:15,16). The more active we are in the community,
the more we feel we go the extra miles- the more sober is this
warning. Peter speaks of the need to use hospitality without
grudging (1 Pet. 4:9); he foresaw how brotherly love could
be shown physically, but with an underlying grudge that in fact
we somehow must show such love. This is not the "
love unfeigned" of which the Scriptures speak.
- 1 Cor. 13 is perhaps the clearest statement of this principle.
We can die for our faith, give our all day by day, really really
believe; but if right deep down there is no love, then all this
means nothing. 1 Cor. 13 is a frightening chapter when
read like this. " Love" doesn't just mean a warm feeling
towards some of our brethren. It is the motive of true and warm
and overwhelming and overflowing love for the Father
and His Son (which inevitably spills over into love for our brethren).
- John perceptively foresaw that a man might say that he loves
God, and yet hate his brother (1 Jn. 4:20). He demonstrates with
piercing logic that hating our brother means that we hate our
God. But it is so easy to adopt the position of the man whom John
sets up. We can even think that our love of God is articulated
in a hating of our brother, for the sake of Godís Truth. It is
relatively easy to love God, apparently, any way. But itís hard
to love all our brethren. And yet this means that a true
unfeigned love of God is not quite so natural and easy as we think.
1 Jn. 5:1-3 make it clear that it is axiomatic within loving God
that we love all His children. If we donít love them, we donít
love Him. So if we think that loving God is easy, think again.
Think who He really is, of the inclusive and saving and
seeking grace which is so central to His character, and the imperative
which there is within it to be like Him.
- The Lord realized that it was easy to have an apparent love
and peace with our brethren, when actually we have nothing of
the sort. In the context of His men arguing with John's disciples,
the Lord told a small parable, in which He made having salt in
ourselves equal to having peace with our brethren (Mk. 9:38-40;
49,50). He warned that salt which has lost its saltness
looks just the same as good salt; but salt that has lost its saltiness
is nothing, it's just a lump of substance. Surely He's
saying: 'You may think you have peace and love for your brethren,
when actually you don't; and if you don't have it, you're nothing,
just a lump'. Not without relevance He mentioned that every sacrifice
had to have good salt added to it. His point was that all our
devotion and sacrifice is meaningless if it lacks the real
salt of true love for our brethren. Which is exactly the teaching
of 1 Cor. 13. Love is a matter of deep attitude as shown in the
small things of life, not the occasional heroism of (e.g.) giving
our body to be burned.
- The false shepherds of Israel ďfeed not the flockĒ. They had
no real concern for the welfare of others in the community. They
were to therefore be punished, ďand cause them to cease from feeding
the flockĒ (Ez. 34:2,9). Well did they feed them, or didnít they?
They did on the surface, they had an appearance of concern for
the welfare of their brethren, as we can so easily have in greeting
each other at gatherings, or talking about the misfortunes of
our brethren to others. But in ultimate spiritual reality, they
didnít feed their brethren at all. And so so easily, neither can
- There is repeated N.T. warning against the ease of slipping
into a mindset which thinks itself to be 'loving' when actually
it isn't. " Let love be without dissimulation" (s.w.
" unfeigned" ; Rom. 12:9). The fact he knew himself
to have " love unfeigned" (2 Cor. 6:6) was one of Paul's
credentials as a genuine apostle. James 3:17 speaks of the true
spirituality, including gentleness, patience, kindness etc., as
being " without hypocrisy" (s.w. " unfeigned"
). A true response to the doctrines of the basic Gospel will result
in " love unfeigned" (1 Pet. 1:22). Israel of old failed
in this: " With their mouth they shew much love; but their
heart goeth after their covetousness" (Ez. 33:31). This is
all some emphasis. It helps explain why both in ourselves and
in others it is possible to behold a great emphasis on love whilst
at the same time harbouring a very unloving attitude. I think
all of us with any ecclesial experience will be able to recall
conversations where 'love' has been advocated, or 'unloving behaviour'
criticized, in language which simply breathes bitterness
- The experience of emotion on reflection at the Lord's sufferings
can be yet another area where our spirituality isn't genuine.
The scene of those 11 grown men mourning and weeping at the loss
of their Lord makes me think 'They were a soft hearted lot
really, behold how they loved him...'. But then the Lord appears
to them and upbraids them for being hard hearted and
indifferent to His words (Mk. 16:10,14). His upbraiding of them
must have really hurt- for they must have been sure that they
were anything but hard hearted towards Him.
- Love in its human form can hardly exist without hatred as well.
Thus Ezekiel was to the people as ďa very lovely songĒ, they loved
to hear him and be with him; and yet at the very same time they
spoke against him (Ez. 33:30-33). No wonder Paul exhorted
us to let love be without dissimulation; to have the love of
God, love unfeigned, and not merely human love for each other.
(1) William Barclay, Flesh And Spirit (London: SCM,
1962) p. 24.