Love and its Misuse and Misinterpretation

Society today is interwoven with varied opinions and values of life which are, in many instances, misunderstood and misapplied. There are various streams of thought and certain groups who use words and phrases which are forced to apply to their concepts of thinking and ideas. The most misinterpreted and misused word is the word love. It is apparent that the theory and practices of some individuals and groups in our society today who use words, phrases and slogans of love do not convey its real meaning, and are used out of context. These individuals and groups, supposedly in the name of love for other people, hate the "establishment"; in the name of love they refuse to work within the structure of society; in the name of love for others they riot against and destroy the very means by which the "establishment" can be improved; they destroy and set afire the tools which they could use to correct the wrongs of the past. In the name of this supposed love they intend to destroy everything in order to create a new society which they fail to articulate or have any knowledge of; they hate the painstaking development of the principles and standards of society. Love supposedly is used to create a new morality, abandoning the moral standards and principles of goodness in society. In the name of love they use drugs and narcotics to bring them artificial pleasure during which they exploit the natural and innate instinct of sex. The word, love, is used so loosely and out of context today that it signifies to them anything other than its real meaning and content.

It is true that in past centuries, as well as today, love has been exploited by individuals and groups, but it always was found that this kind of love was wrong and needed correction and refinement. Love in the past had an ideal to reach, progressing, refining, upgrading itself through the years in the expression of concern for all peoples. Love was not a monolithic monument; it was, and still is, a power and force by which society is shaped to the benefit of everyone. This means that the ideal state of love has not yet been completed or reached, but is always a pursuit of man and society. This love always has an optimistic goal for all of mankind; it is not pessimistic in character. The use of the word love by many today outside its real meaning and context creates a "pandora's box," full of naive and misguided wishful thinking. The phrase, "I love you" used by the "flower children" and "hippies" has no meaning whatsoever, for it is not enough to say, "I love you." The word, love, here is an empty expression, for it lacks the substance of action for the benefit of the person to whom it is said. Use of the word, love, in this manner, betrays all its values and principles by making it a mere word or slogan. It is not enough just to shout the word, love, or to paint it on placards used in demonstrations of protest, whatever the reason may be. The meaning of this word, love, is perverted today. Its meaning is so different from the true meaning of love; the word is the same, but the content is different. Here lies the crux of the problem: the semantics of the word, love.

THE REAL CONTENT OF LOVE

What is the real meaning of the word, love, which is so widely used today? The word love is defined as not only a strong liking but an ardent attachment, with reference to persons or things that arouse the deeper or higher emotions. The real meaning of the word, love, is lost today primarily because it is used for trivial things. For example, "I love candy," or "I love to go to the theatre." It replaces the words, like and enjoy. The word, love, is too often used for the word, like, for things which are merely pleasing, but evoke no great warmth of feeling or desire. The word, love, if often used for the word, enjoy. This habitual use of the word, love, to express other feelings minimizes the real potential of love in its true sense. Love is the carrier of the highest emotion inherent in man, which is above and beyond mere liking. Moreover, the true meaning of love is interwoven with sacrifice in the sense of denying oneself for the sake of someone or something else. In the expression of love, sacrifice is made of something highly desirable or in itself of great value for the sake of another person, ideal or goal. Love without sacrifice is not an expression of self-denial for the sake of a loved one or ideal. Love in this sense is a mere sentiment without its real meaning. Therefore, the habitual use of the word, love, in our society is distorting its real content through misuse and misguidance.

The basic meaning of love is understood primarily in relationships between persons. Love is in its very nature the expression of an ardent attachment through the highest human emotion; it is expressed in its best quality through devotion, loyalty, intimate knowledge and responsibility. Love, however, is not merely an emotion as such, but is the total quality of the relationship between persons. Love can also be classed as a sentiment or a passion possessing deep enthusiasm.

Passion, as such, is not only an organized emotion, but it is also an organized desire with instinctive impulses for a person or for an ideal. When it is a passion of love, it is something very different from mere passionate emotion. When it is a passion of love, it is a system of organized emotions and desires which by its very characteristic is stable, regulative and has a sound reasoning. For the normal development of love and fundamental condition is that there shall be joy in the object to which it is directed. If love has this joy, the rest will follow very easily. If this joy does not exist, love is doomed to fail. The feeling and expression of joy is spontaneous and vital and may become the basic expression of love. The development of love needs to have joy as its prime essential. The emotion of joy attaches itself to the object and not to the subject, and it is not self-centered. The development of love includes sorrow, not only joy. Joy and sorrow work together in the strengthening of the passion of love. Sorrow is in reality a search and longing for a lost joy. Love, on the other hand, is more than just joy and sorrow, for it is the full and all-embracing passion.

However, true and abiding love, in its highest and deepest meaning, is divine in character, its manifestation and its expression towards one's fellow man. This content of divine love is found in the Christian concept. It is this divine concept of love that is the foundation upon which "depend all the law and the prophets." The foundation is the profound, divine declaration: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with 'all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it. You shalll love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37-39f).

THE CHRISTIAN CONCEPT OF LOVE

The Christian concept of love is a unique expression of reaching for and approaching the Supreme Being, as stated profoundly in Scripture: "God is love." God, as the Source of love, possesses great mercy and compassion. Out of love God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to save mankind. Out of love Christ humiliated Himself and even died on the Cross to atone for man's sins. Out of love Christ offers "fallen" man a second chance to attain salvation through His Church. Out of love God offers everlasting life to those who obey His commandments, accepting them as His heirs. This is supreme love, a love for man whom He created, even though he disobeyed Him through arrogance. The tender mercies of God for man whom He created are over all His great works. Out of this first love of God for man man reflects in turn his love for God and for his fellow man. Love is the center of Christian living. The spirit of love unites persons in an ideal society, for through love man seeks the good of all. The Christian concept that God is love is the basis on which human society is reconstructed as a place in which people live in peace and harmony. In society love, as the bond of perfectness, is the weapon to overcome the fatal power of evil and hatred, which cause division among the people. This ideal of society can be reached only by knowledge of God; the knowledge of God, in turn, can be attained only through love. God reveals Himself to those who walk in His footsteps in the path of humble service to their neighbor.

The profound message that permeates Scripture revolves around the love of God and the love of man. Apostle Paul especially exemplifies this love. Paul refers to various divine gifts used in the early Christian Church, harmonizing their purpose and placing them in an orderly function. Specifically Paul refers to the golden virtue as the key to Christian revelation and life, an "excellent way" by which the believer is illuminated and guided. This "most excellent way" is love. It is Christian love as a bond of unity among people that creates the Church. All other divine gifts and virtues fall within this bond of unity, Christian love. This love sustains the fellowship, one with another and both with Jesus Christ, the Life of the Church. There are various spiritual gifts and various backgrounds and customs among Christians, but they are bound in unity by the power of love. This power of love is the most excellent way of keeping the Church of Christ united. The divine gift of speaking in various tongues languages concerned with sacred things was considered a great gift. But in many ways it was dangerous. This is shown in the gift of eloquence which many times is misleading. Needed was a power to direct those "tongues" in which "the love of Christ controls us," 2 Corinthians 5:14. Without this gift of love, the speaker is but noisy, lacking meaning and substance. Also the gifts of prophesy and even faith, which were held in great esteem, were of little value when love of the prophet or the man of faith was lacking. Lack of love in the prophet makes him a false prophet, as it is stated: "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name . . . I (Christ said) never knew you," Matthew 7:23. Loveless faith and loveless prophesy wrought on Christian history the most tragic events. It is a false act which is frequently repeated today, as witnessed by the tragic state society is in.

Without supreme Christian love, any sacrifice of material wealth or even of the body is meaningless and gains nothing. It is love that gives its meaning and value to any spiritual gift. It is the love of Christ that gives validity to any sacrifice for God and neighbor. If there is no such motive of pure love of God and man, there is no gain or benefit of any kind. Even a martyr's death with eagerness and pride is in vain without pure love in the eyes of God. The early Christian martyrs faced the lions in the arena and endured the flames at the stake through sheer love of Christ and His Gospel. This spirit of love for either God or for neighbor is not evident today. Christians today are not able to give of themselves or to rid themselves of the ill-pleasures of society which are causing the decay and corruption of Christian moral standards. This decay and corruption of life today exists because of the lack of the pure love of God and neighbor.

CHARACTERISTICS OF CHRISTIAN LOVE

The practical aspect of the spirit of Christian love is manifest in Christian fellowship. Love has manifold characteristics in its application to life. It is expressed both in positive and negative ways, indicating how love works in its application. The first characteristic of Christian love is that it is patient and kind; it suffers long. These characteristics of love remind the Christian of some aspects of the Sermon on the Mount; as it mirrors what Christ taught His disciples, especially in the Beatitudes. Christ echos the forgiveness of enemies, prayers for persecutors, generosity to those who at times may make unreasonable demands and love for those who may have hatred for others, because Christ Himself applied these very characteristics of love, patience and kindness. Patience depicts the "long-suffering of God," because His nature is love, compassionate and merciful. This supreme love of God is especially shown in the history of the Jewish people, despite their rebellious attitude. Despite all their iniquities and breaking of His laws, God delivered them from Egypt, and unfailingly provided for them in their desert wanderings. Time after time the Jewish people '' forsook Him and worshipped idols. Yet, God remains patient for His chosen people. God's love is such that He never forsakes ;" those whom He has made His own. Today's society, rebelling against moral and ethical standards, is testing the patience of God. The outgrowth of this patience is kindness, expressed in goodness and love for neighbor. Patience and kindness are bound in Christian love, and go hand in hand.

Christian love is not jealous or boastful. Jealousy is a sinful feeling which corrupts the human spirit and infects personal relationships. It infects the spirit of man, breeding hatred and strife. Only Christian love is pure, enduring differences and circumstances. Only the spirit of love can overcome jealousy and boastfulness, becoming the hope for unity of the spirit of man. It disciplines one to accept the successes and gifts of others. Demonstrating that love is not jealous is the fact that its values are spiritual and not material. Jealousy is a selfish weakness which mirrors one's attention on himself. Christian love is not only unselfish, but sacrificial in nature, as Christ said: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:12-13). This unselfish and sacrificial love enriches the life of the Christian and the community in which he lives as well as penetrating the communities of the world. Boastfulness has the same connotation as jealousy, but with the deadly sins of pride and conceit.

The opposite of boastfulness is the humble attitude. This is demonstrated by Christ, Who said: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). Boastfulness is an outward attitude of the unchristian spirit, whereas jealousy is an inward attitude. The boastful loves to draw attention to himself, showing pride of his position, but the truly great never indulge in showing off. In the spirit of Christian love, one should express Christ, not himself, in life and service. The greatness of love is its humility. The showing of pride and conceit is a mark of inner uncertainty and instability, indicating a feeling of inferiority. Using ones gifts and qualities to draw attention of oneself nullifies them. Jealousy and boastfulness are the opposite of Christian love, because love is modest and humble. Christ's love glorifies all true service to others with humbleness and without acknowledgment.

Christian love is neither arrogant nor rude. Many Christians show arrogance in their social status, wealth and position, separating themselves from the others by associating only with those of equal status. If Christian love were truly practiced, we would lose self-assertiveness with its accompanying rudeness. We would learn to prefer our fellow man before ourselves. This kind of love engenders honor and courtesy. With this kind of love, home and family are secure. This attitude would be reflected not only in the home but in society at large, being an antidote to the disorder in the world today. Such Christian love develops gentleness and manners which help to eliminate rudeness, arrogance and evil forces, both national and international. Christian love is not only courteous, but trustworthy; it quenches anxiety and fear. Christian leaders and gentlemen are needed in all walks of life: in the home, in society and in the world at large. If Christian love is paramount among the leaders of the nations, they will set guidelines for all who come within their jurisdiction. This rule of wise judgment is part of the Christian mission to the peoples of the world. First however, comes the home, where much is to be done. Many church meetings and gatherings as well would be stimulated and inspired by common relationships if those in attendance would acknowledge that love is not arrogant or rude.

Love does not insist on having its own way. Arrogant, boastful, rude persons reveal self-centeredness by insisting on having their own way. This self-assertiveness usually disturbs the fellowship not only of church meetings and gatherings, but of society at large. This self-centeredness attacks life in many areas by permeating literature and the religious sphere as well. Many prayers and hymns are self-centered, focusing attention on the person himself. However, Christian love is not self-centered; nor insists on having its own way. Love gives rather than receives; it seeks not its own way, but everyone's. The seeking of the good of everyone is the Christian way. Here lies the very substance of Christian love: the constant giving. Christ exemplifies this spirit of love in His own life, the giving to others in His works, grace and salvation. By nature human life is self-centered, it seeks its own interest and benefit. However, through repentance, the changing of mind, and the grace of God man became God-centered, an imitator of Christ. The Christian centers his life in God, for "God is love" (1 John 4:8). God, as such, is the foundation of all lesser loves. Where love is God is, and that love is profoundly revealed in Christ, Who loves man and gave Himself for all men.

Love is not irritable or resentful, nor rejoices over wrong. Irritability or resentment are not elements of love, for they infect love. They have poisoned with much bitterness many homes and families, and have broken friendships and relationships. They produce sarcasm and ill-temper. The irritable spirit usually will give way to discipline, not only for those of fierce temperament but for all who show and practice the spirit of love in Christ. Resent-fulness usually goes with irritability, though not all who are irritated at something are resentful. Resentfulness harbors many wrongs committed against someone. It is necessary to blot out the wrongs inflicted on one: so doing is a God-like thing. This is exactly what God Himself does to the sinner who sincerely confesses his sins. Christian love does not rejoice at wrong, taking no pleasure in gossip or scandal. It is never glad when something goes wrong for someone else. Many in the Christian Church itself receive an unchristian pleasure in the failures and misfortunes of others. This rejoicing at wrong for others is evidence of false moral superiority on the part of Those who indulge in it. This vice is far removed from the spirit of Christian love, which takes no delight in scandal or at failures of others. Christian love rejoices only in the right, which encourages goodness and is eager to believe in the best.

THE POSITIVE QUALITIES OF LOVE

Pure Christian love possesses positive qualities. This love works through persons inspired and guided by Christ Himself, Whom God "has put all things under his feet and has made him the ead of all things for the church, which is the body, the fullness of him who fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:22-23). The Christian with this love in his total person says: "can do all things in him (Christ) who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). This dynamic love is expressed by those who believe "that Christ may dwell in your heart through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph. 3:17-19). Such love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. This kind of love implies restraint and endurance against wrong. But moreso, that love carries a burden and even the blame for the wrong itself. Such love embodies the love of Christ crucified.

A Christian love working in the fellowship of man brings forth the mind and spirit of Christ. It bears the iniquities of man and society as Christ: "has borne all our griefs, and carried our sorrows" (Isaiah 53:4). This Christian love that endures, bears, believes and hopes all things is the foundation upon which the Christian finds peace and harmony. Such a love, bearing and enduring all the difficulties of life, never ends. There is no end to the love that is in Christ. Here is the unfailing power that is given to the believer in Jesus Christ and His Church. It is a mutual love; God bestows it on man, and, in turn, man shows his love for God, which overflows in his love for his fellow man. God bestows His love on those who love Him "having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (John 13:1). If this unfailing love was practiced today by Christians, most of the ills of our society would not exist. The only way that society today can correct its ills is for all Christians to keep God in their hearts and minds in everything they do. This love can bring about the overthrow of poverty, misery, crime and all the weaknesses and corruption in society.

Christian gifts are given freely to the faithful, who have a certain value and a certain need to serve. Prophesy, for instance, is highly esteemed in Christianity, but it was given to serve a cerriches the one who give it as well as the one to whom it is given. The more the Christian gives this love, the more he becomes a loving spirit in happiness and in joy of giving. Love has a profound effect not only on those who receive it, but also on those who give it freely and unselfishly. By this Christian love, bitterness, jealousy and pride lose their evil force and fail to destroy fellowship among people. Love is the only thing that one cannot give too much of. There is no substitute for Christian love; it never harms; it can do only good. It is necessary for people today to rediscover this truth of love which man's innate nature demands. Through love one will learn to be righteous, the only means to change man's nature from greed and corruption. The law of righteousness through Christian love will bring about the peace and harmony which is so lacking in man and society.

Such being the substance of love, it plays an excellent role in living with "neighbor," not only with individuals, but nations as well; not only with people of the same faith or race or color, but among all the peoples on earth, without discrimination. Neighbor-liness among individuals or nations without love is a pretense and a deception. In society today, little love is seen that would create mutual cooperation, peace and security. The continents of the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe are vast neighborhoods that lack this love that would bring about mutual understanding, trust, harmony, and peace. If this Christian love becomes the main objective, this most excellent way would eliminate all wars, hatred, greed, jealousy and fear. If international affairs are to achieve this "most excellent way," it must first be spread by the family spirit of love, because the world is becoming a smaller area. This love is an urgent and vital spirit necessary for the world in which we live. How much greater would our nation be today, if Christian love became the spirit of every individual. Today's turmoil, dissension, crime and opposing ideologies would not exist. The key to this is the love of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. The sooner all peoples realize and accept this, the sooner peace and harmony will reign. This love is a love that everyone can give, for the future of mankind depends on this love. Therefore, it is imperative for everyone to "make love your aim" (I Corinthians 13:14).

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