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Thread: What Is Love?

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    Post What Is Love?

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    John 13:35 . . By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

    For many of us who grew up in dysfunctional families, broken homes, foster systems, gangs, and/or orphanages et al; the concept of love doesn't resonate in our thinking; viz: it just goes in one ear and right out the other because we quite literally have no points of reference in our minds to aid comprehending what Christ means by love. We know what Hollywood and contemporary music mean by love, but we haven't a clue what Christ means.

    This is why the epistles are so valuable-- many of them not only show Christ's followers how to recognize love when they encounter it; but also how to exemplify it in their own lives so that those of us who were deprived of love growing up are not left to figure it out on our own. For example:

    Col 4:6 . . Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt

    Grace can be defined as kind, courteous, inclined to good will, generous, charitable, altruistic, compassionate, sympathetic, thoughtful, cordial, affable, genial, sociable, cheerful, warm, sensitive, hospitable, considerate, and tactful.

    One of salt's purposes is to enhance flavor and make otherwise naturally insipid and/or bad-tasting things palatable, viz: diplomacy; which can be roughly defined as conversation that makes an effort to maintain peace rather than provoke conflict and/or annoy people and make them uncomfortable.
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    Post Re: What Is Love?

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    Col 3:15b . . Be thankful.

    You know "thank you" is not a dirty word. Christ's people should never take the attitude that just because somebody is doing their job that they don't deserve recognition.

    One of my favorite romantic comedies is "No Reservations" starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart. Prior to filming, Catherine took a job waiting tables to get a feel for working in a restaurant.

    On several occasions, patrons didn't even look up at her nor speak in a cordial, courteous tone when they ordered. It struck her as remarkable that some of the people whom she was serving totally took her for granted and displayed not the slightest inclination to even so much as acknowledge her as a fellow human being, let alone express their gratitude for her taking care of them.
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    Post Re: What Is Love?

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    Matt 5:7 . . Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

    Christ wasn't talking about forgiveness in that beatitude. The word for "merciful" is eleemon (el-eh-ay'-mone) which means: compassionate (as an adjective). And the word for "mercy" is eleeo (el-eh-eh'-o) which means: to pity (as a verb).

    So then, what Christ says is: if somebody is by nature cruel, hard hearted, thoughtless, and insensitive; then they will get no sympathy from God.

    Webster's defines "cruel" as: (1) disposed to inflict pain or suffering, (2) devoid of humane feelings, (3) causing or conducive to injury, grief, or pain, and (4) unrelieved by leniency.

    A well-known example of cruelty is North Korea's Kim Jong-Un, a dictator who squanders billions of dollars on national defense while the growth of something like than 30 to 40 percent of North Korea's children is stunted by malnutrition; and adequate health care is available only to a relatively privileged few. There are actually hospitals in North Korea without electricity, medications, and anesthetics. Potable water is another scarcity in North Korea.

    But Kim is a red herring because there are cruelties far more common than his; for example: demeaning comments, thoughtless remarks, carping criticism, relentless ridicule, bullying, sniping, denigrating labels, hounding, stalking, grudging, needling, perpetual fault-finding, gossip, slander, social sabotage, obnoxious behavior, computer hacking, rejoinders, et al.

    There are actually kids growing up in homes where their parents never give them even one atta-boy. As a result, they grow up feeling ugly, unwanted, stupid, useless, and unnecessary. There are also kids growing up in homes where mothers never hug them nor bother to take the time to forge a bond between mother and child. Thus they grow up with reactive attachment disorder; feeling convinced that no one could possibly ever love them or be their best friend forever. RAD kids grow up to become adults with some serious trust issues.
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    Post Re: What Is Love?

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    Eph 4:32 . . Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

    (chuckle) that resembles a line from one of Bill And Ted's adventure movies: "Be excellent to each other"

    Within the context of the letter Paul wrote and sent to the Christians residing in the ancient city of Ephesus; the objects "one another" and "each other" are exclusive; viz: the comments refer only to one's fellow Bible-believing Christians rather than the world at large. So if you're unwilling to be kind and compassionate to outsiders; at least be so with people at church so as to help prevent church from becoming a hostile worship environment.

    The koiné Greek word for "kind" is chrestos (khrase-tos') which means: employed; viz: useful.

    Chrestos is found in only seven places in the New Testament, and without exception implies being beneficial to others for their own good rather than using people to benefit your own self.

    The word for "compassionate" is eusplagchnos (yoo'-splangkh-nos) which means: sympathetic.

    Webster's defines sympathy as: 1) an affinity, association, or relationship between persons or things wherein whatever affects one similarly affects the other, 2) inclination to think or feel alike: emotional or intellectual accord, 3) feeling of loyalty: tendency to favor or support, 4) the act, or capacity, of entering into or sharing the feelings or interests of another, 5) sensitivity, and 6) heart; as in "have a heart".

    The word "forgiving" is charizomai (khar-id'-zom-ahee) which essentially means: to grant as a favor; viz: gratuitously, i.e. courtesy.

    Webster's defines gratuitous as: 1) given unearned or without recompense, 2) not involving a return benefit or compensation or consideration, 3) costing nothing: free, 4) not called for by the circumstances: unwarranted, 5) complimentary, 6) gratis, and 7) voluntary. In other words; charizomai seeks no reciprocation; it never says "you owe me one"

    Sailors are oft heard to say that the sea is very unforgiving: meaning it allows no room for error or weakness. Christians ought not be like the sea. We ought to be the most forgiving people on the planet; and not because we expect others to reciprocate; but just because we enjoy being gratuitous. For some Christians though, courtesy is an effort.

    Eph 4:31-32 isn't easy. What we're looking at there is not just good citizenship; no, what we're looking at is something divine in both its nature and its behavior.

    Phil 2:1-2 . . If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

    The koiné Greek word for "bowels" is splagchnon (splangkh'-non) which means: an intestine. Your gut is the very place where you "feel" pity and/or sympathy for others-- that is; if you're capable of those kinds of feelings; not everyone is.
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    Post Re: What Is Love?

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    Matt 12:9-12 . . And departing from there, he went into their synagogue. And behold, there was a man with a withered hand. And they questioned him, saying: Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?-- in order that they might accuse him.

    . . . And he said to them: What man shall there be among you, who shall have one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it, and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep!

    I didn't select that passage in order to start a discussion about Sabbath law. My interest is in the importance that people place upon beasts in comparison to the importance that Christ places upon human life.

    One of the salient characteristics of psychopathy is that people afflicted with it can form bonds and attachments to animals much easier than bonds and attachments with people; viz: they're usually capable of feeling affection for animals, while curiously incapable of feeling an equal amount for humans. It's not all that unusual to find psychopaths taking better care of their pets than the families under their own roofs.
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    My favorite definition of love.


    "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. Charity never faileth..."(! Cor. 13:4-8a)

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    Post Re: What Is Love?

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    Rom 12:7a . . If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well.

    "serving well" implies serving conscientiously and whole-heartedly rather than half-baked, grudging, and/or hit and miss.

    One of my brothers has been a construction foreman for decades and one of his perpetual complaints is that he never knows from one day to the next whether some of the men he hires on jobs will show up. In other words: they aren't reliable-- he can't count on them.

    What I'm saying is: if you're thinking about becoming helpful in some way, don't do it unless you're willing to commit to the long haul because people need to know that they can depend on you to stay the course.
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    Post Re: What Is Love?

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    Rom 12:8a . . If your gift is to encourage others, then do so.

    You know who really benefits from encouragement in a big way? Little kids. Thoughtless grown-ups can break a growing child's fragile spirit by criticizing them all the time and never once giving them an "atta boy" or a single vote of confidence.

    A fitting word spoken at just the right moment can really beef up somebody's resolve to meet life head on. If you're good at that sort of thing, then watch for opportunities among your fellow Christians to do so. It has to be honest though because flattery is all the same as treachery.

    Prov 29:5 . .Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet.
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    Post Re: What Is Love?

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    Rom 12:8b . . If you have money, share it generously.

    Generously is quite the opposite of sparingly.

    Jesus once compared a widow's contributions to those of the wealthy. The small amount she gave counted more than the larger amounts contributed by the wealthy because her donation pretty much cleaned her out; while the wealthy's contributions scarcely made a dent in their prosperity. (Mark 12:41-44)

    I don't think Rom 12:8b is commanding Christ's followers to ruin themselves, rather, to avoid being miserly.

    “Christmas is a poor excuse every 25th of December to pick a man's pockets.”
    Scrooge / A Christmas Carol / Charles Dickens

    Ol' Scrooge is known the world over as the king of tightwads. He's an extreme example, to be sure; most people aren't that grasping, but I think quite a few are maybe a bit too frugal.
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    Post Re: What Is Love?

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    Rom 12:8 . . If you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

    That would probably correspond to incidents like the one depicted in the parable of the man attacked by road agents in Luke 10:30-36. In that instance, a passerby had the skills and the wherewithal to provide care for a total stranger in need.

    Personally, I'm not much at first aid and/or emergency medical services. But what we're getting at here is that should you find yourself in circumstances where you can be of genuine, effective assistance; don't lend a hand grudging. It ought to make Christians happy to be of assistance instead of getting irritated and grumpy about an unexpected inconvenience.

    A solo Pacific Crest Trail hiker named Cheryl Strayed, in her book "WILD", recounts an evening wherein she was very low on funds and having no luck locating a suitable place in the woods to set up her tent before it got really dark. Cheryl found her way into a fee campground and set up at the extreme end of the facility where she thought no one would mind; but later that night the caretakers came by and, in a not-so-friendly tone, insisted that she either pay the $12 fee or break camp and leave.

    The "Christian" thing to do would have been to take Cheryl's I.O.U. and loan her the fee instead of forcing a woman to wander out into the pitch black forest all alone at night. The PCT is dangerous enough in daytime, but night is much worse, even with a strong camper's headlamp.

    NOTE: The law is the law and rules are rules, that's true but according to Jesus' teachings; there are instances when human need-- e.g. health, safety, and welfare --come first. His hard-hearted, strictly by-the-book religious opponents just couldn't get that through their thick skulls. (cf. Ex 1:15-21)
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    Post Re: What Is Love?

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    Rom 12:9a . . Don't just pretend that you love others.

    Webster's defines "pretense" as fiction, make-believe, and/or simulation. Ironically, pretense is foundational to ordinary civility and common courtesy. But when it comes to love; Christians should never put on a front. In other words: don't lead someone on to believe you care about them when in reality you don't. That's not only dishonest; it's cruel.

    I once asked a rather incompetent Sunday school teacher, in so many words, whether feelings play a role in Christianity. He said that feelings are emotions and therefore insignificant. Well; I have to disagree.

    Col 3:12 . . Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies

    The koiné Greek word for "bowels" in that passage is splagchnon (splangkh'-non) which basically refers to one's intestines; i.e. the tummy; which says to me that bowels of mercies are emotions rather than just good manners.

    In other words: real love isn't a non emotional academic concept; it contains things like pity, sympathy, empathy, compassion, thoughtfulness, and sensitivity. Real love is easily mimicked, but not all that easy to feel; especially by people who, by nature, are more monster than human.
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    Post Re: What Is Love?

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    Rom 12:10a . . Love each other with genuine affection

    Real affection is easy to imitate, but not so easy to duplicate. Going through the motions is just not the same as feeling the feelings.

    There are people in this world who, by nature, are affection-challenged. They can't even feel anything for their own children, let alone other people. For them, parenting is a nightmare rather than a dream come true. Their children are a burden rather than a blessing. Children ruin those parents' lives instead of brightening them up and making their lives more worth the living.

    However, affection-challenged people aren't entirely hopeless because Christianity isn't a do-it-yourself religion; it's a supernatural religion.

    Rom 8:11 . . If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His spirit, who lives in you.

    Some might argue that verse is talking about the future. Well; their argument is okay as far as it goes, but doesn't go far enough. It's futile to resurrect a mortal body because it would be still be mortal; i.e. vulnerable to disease, aging, and death. No, the "life" that Rom 8:11 is talking about is a benefit package defined as the fruit of the Spirit; spoken of in Gal 5:19-25. One of the benefits in that package is love.

    A heads up to affection-challenged people: The fruit of the Spirit is inconvenient. It will make you a better human being, but it will also make you pretty uncomfortable at times too because love gets into your heart and makes you sensitive, compassionate, and empathetic . . . for real.

    People who've never felt those kinds of feelings before would be overwhelmed were love to come upon them in full power. Fortunately the fruit of the Spirit doesn't come on people all at once; instead, the fruit sort of grows on people a little at a time; sort of like gradually bringing a frog up to the boiling point by starting him out in cold water.

    Of course the process is lethal to the frog; but I'm only using the doomed amphibian as an analogy rather than a reality. The fruit of the Spirit is life rather than death. So the fruit gradually brings people up from a cold dead heart to a warm living heart.

    NOTE: The fruit of the Spirit isn't a particularly Christian thing. It was predicted for the Jews many, many years prior to the New Testament in Ezekiel 36:24-27.
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    Post Re: What Is Love?

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    Rom 12:10b . . Honor others over yourselves.

    Christians infected with narcissistic personality disorder will find that rule difficult, if not impossible, to obey. It's a mental condition characterized by a grandiose sense of self-importance, a need for excessive admiration, exploitive behavior in relationships, and a lack of empathy.

    Narcissistic people are by nature insufferably arrogant, self-absorbed, indifferent, and insensitive. They see nothing wrong with their behavior, nor are they attuned to its impact on others. Were you to confront narcissistic folk with your concerns about their attitude; be prepared for a counterattack because they'll no doubt become indignant and defensive; possibly accusing you of selfishness, jealousy, overreaction, hysteria, and unloving behavior. You see; they're never the problem: you are.

    As I was watching a recent series on the National Geographic channel about geniuses; it became readily apparent to me that people in the genius category crave recognition. Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso are two very good examples. Their contributions to art and science were secondary to their ambitions for greatness. I wouldn't say that all geniuses are like that of course, but apparently the desire for greatness is not uncommon among them.

    I should think that most alpha achievers would have trouble complying Rom 12:10b too. I mean. why be a winner if not to feel superior to everyone else? The alpha achiever's motto is: It's not enough to succeed: everyone else must fail.

    Feelings of value are important to everyone's sense of well being, but the alpha achiever feels only himself to be of any real value; in his mind's eye, those "below" him are of little worth, i.e. expendable and/or a dime a dozen. (cf. Est 6:6, Matt 27:26, Mark 12:38 39, and 3John 1:9)
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    Post Re: What Is Love?

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    Rom 12:13a . . Share with God's people who are in need.

    The Jews are God's people in accordance with an unconditional covenant that He made with Abraham. (Gen 17:7-8)

    NOTE: Nazi Germany was very nearly 99% Christian. Had they all complied with Rom 12:13a, the effects of the Holocaust would've no doubt been greatly reduced.
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    Post Re: What Is Love?

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    Rom 12:13b . . Practice hospitality.

    Webster's defines hospitable as: (1) given to generous and cordial reception of guests, (2) promising or suggesting generous and cordial welcome, (3) offering a pleasant or sustaining environment.

    In other words; a hospitable person is civil, courteous, thoughtful, easy on one's nerves, helpful, approachable, accommodating, and relaxing to be with.
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