Sunday, November 14, 2010

Love: Part Four

This is the fourth installment in our series on love.

The Bible indicates that love is from God. In fact, the Bible says "God is love." Love is one of the primary characteristics of God. Likewise, God has endowed us with the capacity for love. This capacity for love is one of the ways in which we are "created in the image of God.”

There are three primary words in the Greek language that are interpreted as ‘love’ in Greek literature. These three words are the ends and the middle of the spectrum of love. They are:

· Eros

· Phileo

· Agape

There are two words which can be used to briefly describe each of these. Those two words are ‘give’ and ‘take’. While there are much more detailed definitions and explanations of these three words, these are my simplistic explanations.

· Eros – this is a take/take relationship. It is the most destructive of the love relationships. It gives nothing. It takes everything. It is the basis of the English word ‘erotic’. This is a self destroying love.

· Phileo – this is a give/take relationship. This is the type most of humanity is familiar with. It is the beginning love a child has. It is based on performance. If you love me, I will love you. How many of us as children didn’t write and pass that note in grade school that professed our feelings for another with the ‘do you love me, check yes or no’ scribbled on the page. It is also called ‘brotherly’ love. It is the foundation of the city of Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.

· Agape – this is a give/give relationship. This is the love that God has for us. It is the love that continues to give even as we take and abuse that love. It is the love that does not consider a past offence. This is the unearned sacrificial love that held Christ to the cross.

This continues the series based on 1st Corinthians 13. We most often hear these scriptures at weddings, however, when Paul wrote them in his letter, he was not addressing a couple about to be married, but he was addressing the body of Christ.

We talked about, and will likely refer back to the long suffering, kind, un-envying characteristics of love in this study, as we talk about the non-hasty aspect of God’s love.

Does not vaunt itself

Love is not rash.

Ecclesiastes 7:8-9 Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.”

Let us look at the puffer fish. The puffer fish is known scientifically as the Tetraodontidae. Interestingly enough, it is considered to be the second-most poisonous vertebrae in the world. Also, the puffer fish are covered with spines, which are only visible when the fish is puffed up. While the puffer fish is highly maneuverable, it is very slow. This makes it seeming easy prey. Their excellent eyesight and great maneuverability generally keep them safe. Their back up defense mechanism, used of they are successfully pursued, is to fill their extremely elastic stomachs with water (or air when outside the water) until they are much larger and almost spherical in shape. Even if they are not visible when the puffer is not inflated, all puffers have pointed spines, so a hungry predator may suddenly find itself facing an unpalatable pointy ball rather than a slow, tasty fish. Predators which don't heed this warning (or who are "lucky" enough to catch the puffer suddenly, before or during inflation) may die from choking, and predators that do manage to swallow the puffer may find their stomachs full of tetrodotoxin, making puffers an unpleasant, possibly lethal, choice of prey. This neurotoxin is found primarily in the ovaries and liver, although smaller amounts exist in the intestines and skin, as well as trace amounts in muscle.

Love keeps us from acting in a hasty rash manner. Love is an action. Anger is a reaction. Anger exposes our sharp pointy spines and lethal toxins. Love waits. There are several overlapping qualities and quantities of love. We are talking about love not behaving rashly or quickly, but we could also add this to the quality of not being puffed up, or the quality of bearing all things, or even the quality of not being easily provoked.

The puffer fish blows itself up as a reaction. Flesh seeks to react at times. Our human carnal nature seeks to assert itself in what it perceives as an act of defense. It reacts as a method of self preservation. However, we have a savior who acts in our defense, if we allow Him to do so.

Love gives the benefit of the doubt. Love does not jump to hasty conclusions. Love is patient with those in contact with it. If you have seen those that are hasty in judgment, it is a love problem. If a person is quick to blame, it is a love problem. If a friend or loved one is hasty or rash in reaction to the actions of others, it is a love problem.

This is not to say that love is slow to act. Love moves quickly in a need. Love moves hurriedly to heal a hurt or right a wrong. The Children of God move hastily in love to apply the balm and soothe the hurt. It is the negative connotation we speak of when we think of rash actions or decisions. We have to guard against making rash decisions. Rash decisions are not actions, they are reactions.

Wave your hand suddenly in the face of a newborn and they will not blink their eyes. They have no conditioned response to do so as they have never been hit in the eye. Once they have been hit in the eye, they will blink or close the eye to protect it. We think it is instinctual. It is not. It is a learned response.

That being said, most of our reactions are not instinctual. They are learned responses. They are actions based on previous similar situations that have occurred in our lives. We react according to our experiences. We respond to every day events based on past experiences.

There are numerous of the characteristics of love which complement each other. Part of the kindness of love is in the patience in judgment. You will also find the quality of thinking no evil here. Herein is also contained the hoping all things, the bearing all things, and the believing all things. We will cover these in greater detail later in this study, but they do bear mentioning here as well.

As much as we can say what love is through these scriptures, it is also as important to see what love isn’t. If we say that love is not hasty in judgment, we can see then that love is slow to anger and swift to forgive. We can see the lack of rash or racing judgment in God’s coming to man in the Garden of Eden following man’s fall. He did not rush to the spot of man’s sin. He did not hasten to throw man out of paradise. He came, in the cool of the day, in the calm, quiet and composed. He had judgment with Him, but His love did not allow Him to come in haste.

When we have the love of God leading us, we will not react in haste.

Love stands between the situation and the reaction. We talked about love being patient (long suffering.) The key to that phraseology is in two parts.

The first part is the suffering aspect. This plainly states that there is suffering involved. The incentive is not a desired stimulus. By the very word, we can understand that the condition is causing pain. Whether it is a long dull ache or a sudden sharp pain, it is still pain, nonetheless. Who among us, even for the sake of love, wants to endure continuous or even occasional pain? The natural human reaction is to move quickly away from the source of pain. This is a reaction. (Touch something hot and see how quickly your body reacts to the pain of the heat.) This is the nature of flesh when it comes in contact with a painful stimulus. We do not want to endure physical pain.

Now, we come to the heart. I am not talking about the physical beating muscle in your chest, but the emotional seat of your being. We talk about heartache in our lives. We talk about the quick moving sharp tongue of a friend or a stranger that lacerates our emotional core. We talk about the heart pain of constant emotional abuse. We hear people speak of years of abuse and how they reacted to it. We think the only reaction is the one we see when they finally break free of the abuse or silence the abuser, but their entire life is a reaction. It is a conditioned reaction where they often shut down parts of their emotion. (Please understand that I am in no way endorsing enduring emotional and physical abuse in a relationship.) I am talking about a reaction to suffering. We all react.

We have to understand this fact about the life of Jesus Christ. Nothing He did was a reaction to His environment. His whole life was a plan. Nothing that happened to him was unexpected by Him. The Word tells us that He knows the end from the beginning. (Isaiah 46.10) from the foundation of the world, He knew the order of the days. The Word tells us that He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth. (Revelation 13.8) Can you even fathom this? As He created this world and formed the mountains and the hills, He knew He would robe Himself in flesh and die on one of those hills.

His life was ordered. When we look at His existence, we must realize this was the path He chose. He did not have to die. He did not have to save His creation. It has been said numerous times in a variety of ways that it was not the nails that held Him to the cross of Calvary. It was His love for us. It was His love for me. It was His love for you.

That love, compelled Him to give His life for his creation. The omniscience of God meant He was not taken by surprise by Calvary. It was His goal. Calvary was not the unexpected reaction of humanity on the life of Jesus. It was ordained by His love.

When we, the body of Christ, possess that love, we will not react in haste. Reaction is based on past experiences and present circumstances. That is not to say that it isn’t expected in us. It is not a judgment, per say. It is an observation. We know yesterday. We know today. It is all we have in the realm of our knowledge upon which to base a decision about what to do.

Within our brains are the Amygdalae. They perform a primary role in the processing and memory of emotional reactions. The amygdala is associated with or controls:

· Arousal

· Controls Autonomic Responses Associated with Fear

· Emotional Responses

· Hormonal Secretions

I am primarily concerned in this study with only one of those aspects of its function. I am looking at the emotional responses. I want to put this in terms that ate readily understandable. Our brains are like a giant super computer. They store vast amounts of information. If we see it, hear it, smell it, feel it, or taste it, it is stored in our brain in the form of memory. When we are confronted with a circumstance, our brain goes through our memory to decide how to respond to that circumstance. The amygdala determines our emotional response based on previous responses and effect of said responses. Then, the amygdala sends responses in the form of neurons to the Hypothalamus. The Hypothalamus:

· Controls Autonomic Functions

· Emotions

· Endocrine Functions

· Homeostasis

· Motor Functions

· Regulates Food and Water Intake

· Regulates Sleep Wake Cycle

Based on the stimulus received the body reacts. This is where our fight or flight response is determined. This increases our heart rate, increases our sweat production, and alters our breathing, depending on the amygdale and hypothalamus.

The point to see here is that these responses or reactions are based primarily on past experiences (memory) and present circumstances (stimulus.) It is human nature to react in haste. It is a flooding of endorphins or testosterone predicated on the functions of our brains.

Paul tells us in Corinthians that the love we receive from God does not react in haste.

Isaiah tells us that God’s thought are not our thoughts and God’s ways are not our ways. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My thoughts higher than your thoughts,” God says.

Why is this?

Let’s look at the origin of our thoughts and our ways. As we explained earlier, everything we do is based on our experiences and our circumstance. This is all we know. We do not know tomorrow. We have dreams for tomorrow. We have hopes for tomorrow. What we do not have is knowledge of tomorrow. Therefore, all of our thinking and ways are based on this two dimensional type of thinking.

Let’s look at Gods thoughts and God’s ways. As explained earlier also, nothing that happened in the life of Christ was unexpected. God knows the past. God knows the present. God knows the future. God knows yesterday, today, and tomorrow. His ways are not based on a reaction. His ways are not based in hasty or rash decisions. God moves by virtue of His complete knowing of past, present, and future events.

When we have the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, we will have the trust of that knowledge as well. When we know that our lives are directed by a God that loves us and knows tomorrow, we can trust in His plan and not react in haste.

We think so often that when we talk about reacting in haste, we are concerned only with a word spoken in anger, or a lashing out in anger. This is far from the only problem with operating in haste. Every day we are called on to make decisions that will affect the rest of our lives. God implores us to give due diligence and Godly consideration to these decisions.

Yes, Godly love can hold an angry tongue (the last member to yield.)

Yes, Godly love can still a violent outburst.

However, there is so much more to the calm serenity that the love of God gives us than just controlling our temper. While, controlling our temper is vital and losing it is detrimental to our Godly profession, the calmness of God’s love goes far beyond only it.

Have you ever been cut off in traffic by a bad driver? Sure, you have. How did you react? If you are like many drivers, you reacted in anger and sped up and rode the bumper of the offender. You might have even cut into the other lane and passed that driver and cut back into the lane. What have you done? You have become that which offended you. You have allowed an offence to make you an offence. Your amygdala and your hypothalamus are in concert. They are flooding your body with testosterone (yes, even if you are a woman,) and you are overriding the love of God that should be governing your life.

Now, just suppose, in your effort to even the score, you cause the other driver to lose control and wreck. There is a loss of property and possibly life. Does this put into perspective the cost of rash and hasty decisions? Does the fact that no-one lost control and there was no property or life loss change the damage of such actions?

Love does not react in haste.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, when the soldiers and the servants of the priests came to arrest Jesus, Peter reacted and cut off the ear of one of the servants, Malchus. Jesus tells Peter to put away his sword. He says, “This is the cup my Father has given me. Shall I not drink it?” Jesus touched the ear of the servant and restored it.

At this crucial part on His path toward Calvary, Jesus was still governed by His love for lost humanity.

Love, prayerfully considers while humanity reacts in haste.

Love does not vaunt itself.

Next: Love is not puffed up.

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