How often we have heard the confession of some confused heart: “I just don’t love the Lord as I know I should.” Because the world’s sentimental notion of love has been imposed upon the church, many seem unable to manufacture that kind of religious emotion which they so often hear about in songs, sermons and writings. And they imagine, perhaps after all, they have only an empty profession and are not truly a believer. Now the very fact of their genuine longing to love Him would seem to indicate they have encountered Him as Lord and trusted His finished work on Calvary. Why then, does this love which the Scriptures so emphatically command, seem to consistently elude them?
Dr. A. W. Tozer has asked and then answered this question.
“One of the puzzling questions likely to turn up sooner or later to vex the seeking Christian is how he can fulfill the scriptural command to love God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself.
“The earnest Christian, as he meditates on his sacred obligations to love God and mankind, may experience a sense of frustration gendered by the knowledge that he cannot seem to work up any emotional thrill over his Lord or his brothers. He wants to, but he cannot, the delightful wells of feeling simply will not flow. To find our way out of the shadows and into the cheerful sunlight we need only to know that there are two kinds of love–the love of feeling and the love of willing. The first lies in the emotions, the other in the will. Over the one we may have little control. It comes and goes, rises and falls, flares up and disappears as it chooses, and changes from hot to warm to cool and back to warm again, very much as does the weather.”
This emotional love surely was not in the mind of Christ when He told His people to love God and each other. But the love which Jesus introduces is not the love of feeling. “It is the love of willing, the willed tendency of the heart” (Tozer).When we understand the difference between the two Greek words (phileo and agapeo), we realize how discriminately the Holy Spirit has used each in the Word of God. And we see more clearly that God never intended that man should be the plaything of his emotions or feelings. Indeed the emotional life is a proper and noble part of the total personality, but it is by its very nature to be secondary. And since the fall of man it must be rectified through the work of the Cross. The man who would learn to walk with his spirit controlling his soul faculties and with his body in subjection, must learn to live by the will. The will becomes the rudder that keeps the boat on course.
On what level is our loving? If it is anything less than agape-love, it is sub-Christian. The lines are pretty clearly drawn between agape, phileo and eros love. If we merely find a union with others in similar goals, ideals, and values however high and noble or cultured–it is merely phileo love. It is still a love that loves for what it can get out of it. It is loving people for what they give us in return. When there is no return, then love ceases. How truly the term “falling” describes this level; for it is a falling short of that which God intends.
And when love has fallen from the phileo to the eros level, it becomes lust and uncontrolled passion which would use another’s body for its own satisfaction. How aptly the worldling expresses this level of falling in love. He sees something in another–maybe beauty or physical attractiveness–which would bring a satisfaction to him. He sees and lusts for another as that one would meet a need in him, therefore he sets out to acquire that one. Indeed love has fallen from God’s high standard.
But what is more tragic is to realize how often in the church love has fallen. God, too, comes under the acquisition urge. We make God a means to our ends. He saves us from trouble, heals us of our sickness, gives us success in life, provides us a heaven hereafter: therefore we serve Him. While we seek to use God, we are the center and God is pulled into the sphere of our interest. All this may be very religious, but it is pure egocentricity.
We expect to get something out of our loving God. We go to church, we pray, we pay to church and charitable causes, we are faithful in our duties. Therefore, we feel that God is under obligation to us–to shield us from harm and danger, ward off our sicknesses, provide us with plenty of material goods, and give us a home in heaven.
While this theme has secretly slipped into many hearts in the church, how much more boldly it is the emphasis of the “peace of mind” and “happiness” cults. They unashamedly insist, “If I will serve God. repeat certain slogans, obey certain rules, I’ll have peace of mind of and happiness. What I give all comes back to me. I’m the center of the universe. Everything, including God, comes to my beck and call–revolves around me.” Now what is so dangerous is that these are working principles which will go a long ways toward realization if actually practiced. But they will finally fail because they are wrong at the center.
God’s final word is that as His children we are not to fall, but to rise into the divine level where His agape love is flowing… So when we are exhorted in His Word to love God and others with all our heart, it is that we choose (will) to allow His own love to flow through us.
Part 2 of 2
DeVern Fromke. Unto Full Stature. (Sure Foundation, 2001) 149-151. Copyrighted by Sure Foundation. Used with permission. http://www.surefoundation.com/