I have a question for you, dear friends. You needn’t answer so quickly and yes, there is one right answer. Here is my inquiry:
What comes first, knowing what love is or accepting love?
I posed this very question to a Jewish friend of mine whom I am going to now refer to as Pond (we’re both Doctor Who fans). Now I use the term “Jewish” lightly. Pond seems to see the Jewish thing as an ancestral/holiday convenience and nothing more.
That’s what it looks like. Anyway, I’m not going to profess to know the motives of her heart. I couldn’t possibly know them.
“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” 1 Samuel 16:7
Before I asked this question of Pond I had been having an animated discussion with my other friend who had been in the room. This other friend I shall refer to as River (hello, sweetie). River and I were trying to handle conflicts that had come up regarding a mutual friend in our small unit. Her name is Martha. Martha’s problems were causing a rift: lying, deceitfulness, dishonesty and manipulating other people. These behaviors were a real problem considering the fact that Martha was a Christian.
River and I, also being Christians, were having quite a fuss about this. The fact that Martha was sinning in these specific ways was irrelevant. Christians and everyone else in the world continue to sin until they die.
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14
“‘Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.’” Acts 13:38-39
Funnily enough, many non-believers miss that fine detail that I just mentioned. Everyone is a sinner. Becoming a Christian does not change that. The difference between a believer and a non-believer is that a believer has forgiveness through Jesus and thus has been removed from God’s wrath. A believer is made right with God through faith in Jesus.
“-a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” Galatians 2:16
The “law” or “law of Moses” means the Ten Commandments as well as all the specific rules Jews had to follow including which animals were “clean” to eat, keeping the Sabbath day holy, revering special holidays and many other laws regarding cleanliness and other such things. This is the breaking point for Judaism and Christianity. Jews believe living by these laws makes them right with God. Christians have put their faith in Jesus for forgiveness of sins and this makes them truly right with God.
But you may not understand this. Tell me, has any Christian ever explained to you that, as a non-believer, you literally cannot understand God? We’re getting back to the first question again. Which comes first knowing what love is or accepting love?
I hope by now you have chosen your respective order of these two points about love because now I’m going to tell you what the correct answer is. The correct answer is that you must accept love first before you know what love is. The same rule applies to Jesus Christ: you must accept Jesus before you can understand the Truth. The Truth being the things written in the Bible, who God is and what God wants.
So here it is: non-believers lack understanding of God. Why do they lack this? They do not know Jesus so they do not know God.
“‘You do not know me or my Father,’ Jesus replied. ‘If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’” John 8:19
There is a famous verse is in this same book of scripture. Here it is:
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6
I’d like to take a mini sidestep here and just point out that good people don’t go to Heaven. Did you catch that? Only those who believe in Jesus go to Heaven, in other words, forgiven sinners. GOOD PEOPLE DON’T GO TO HEAVEN. Okay? That’s not real.
The fact that non-believers do not understand Jesus or the Bible is because of something known as the veil. It is a veil that God put over people’s eyes. Why would he do that?
“(The Lord) said, ‘Go and tell this people: Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.’” Isaiah 6:9-10
Isaiah asked God how long this “veil” was going to last. God answered him and said not until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until houses are left deserted and fields ruined and ravaged and until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. Sounds like it’s going to be for a while.
“But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away…But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:14, 16-17
God has given sinners over to their sin. Because of this, no one can understand God unless they accept his son.
“They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity with a continual lust for more.” Ephesians 4:18-19
If you’re honest with yourself for a moment, does that sound like you? Every time you drink your poison be it sex, drugs, partying, selfish anger, lying, stealing, lust, do you ever feel you’re satisfied? That high you get never lasts long enough, does it? That orgasm is over so quickly, isn’t it? That anger inside of you never runs empty even after you’ve let so much out, right?
Of course it feels so good for those couple of seconds you’re doing it, but then it’s over and you’re left with nothing. In fact, knowing myself, I hate how I feel after I’ve given into my addiction to fantasy. I can’t explain the deranged sense of hatred in my body but at the same time pleasure in the flesh. Indeed it is like being torn down the middle, but the guilt of sin always lasts longer than the pleasure.
Christians experience a fight every day between the Holy Spirit of God and the sinful desires of the flesh. Paul wrote about this in Galatians 5.
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” Galatians 5:16-17
Paul says that if you remain in God, he’ll remain in you and you won’t gratify your sinful nature. Paul knew very well that sin was always going to be a part of his life and everyone else’s lives whether they were Christians or not. What he meant was that remaining in tune with God is extremely important and it helps you to avoid many of the sins you would otherwise commit. Paul understood that sin is always present. This is why Jesus is so invaluable because we need his forgiveness every day. If our sin never stops, we need forgiveness that is unending.
Jesus himself said to remain in him which is accomplished through prayer, obeying his commands, growing in our knowledge of God and by using our gifts to glorify God. We’re meant to use our gifts to help people.
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4
Christians are the branches and bearing fruit means doing what God wants. Jesus is the vine.
So now you know the answer to our little question above. Love must be accepted first before we know what it is. Do you know what love is? Because it’s not emotion, it’s action and behavior.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16
When I tried to explain this to my friend, Pond, she stared at me like I was crazy. She was fidgeting so much like she wanted to run away from me. As for Martha, she’s always going to struggle with sin just like everyone else. But as a Christian, there is a limit. River and I knew this and that’s what the fuss was about. So for Christians, there is a warning for you if you do not repent, meaning that you turn away, from your sin and ask for forgiveness.
“But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.” 1 Corinthians 5:11
What Paul is saying here is not that we will never sin again as Christians, what he is saying is that people who claim to be Christians and yet do all of these terrible things without care are showing they are not truly Christians but are false brothers and sisters. Being a real Christian means confessing to sin and asking for forgiveness and help from God.
It is very tiring to try and satisfy your flesh. It takes a lifetime to even get close, and then we are gone. Dust back into dust. Please consider these things because eventually you’ll hit a wall. It’s the really big wall too, the one that cries out for the meaning of life.
You will not find the meaning of your existence in this world.
You can look and look. Grow old in your searching; let your eyes become white in blindness. You will not find it here.
These things I have said are foolish, you may think. You may hate what you’ve read or disagree with it entirely, but I know the truth. One day, you will face death and suddenly all of the things you took comfort in, all of the “intelligence” you rested in, all of the distractions you used to have are going to fade to gray and run screaming away from you.
Death is a glorious thing in that it can make a man very humble.
Maybe even humble enough that he would ask God for help.