Yesterday we read J.C Ryle’s thoughts on The Place Which the Bible Gives to Love; today we will continue this series; I pray you will be blessed by these reflections.
“II. Let me show secondly, “what the love of the Bible really is.”
I think it of great importance to have clear views on this point. It is precisely here that mistakes about love begin. Thousands delude themselves with the idea that they have “love,” when they don’t due from a downright ignorance of Scripture. Their love is not the love described in the Bible.
(a) The love of the Bible does not consist in giving to the poor. It is a common delusion to suppose that it does. Yet Paul tells us plainly that a man may “give all he possesses to the poor” (1 Corinthians 13:3), and not have love. That a loving man will “remember the poor,” there can be no question. (Galatians 6:10) That he will do all he can to assist them, relieve them, and lighten their burdens, I don’t for a moment deny. All I say is that this does not make up “love.” It is easy to spend a fortune in giving away money, and soup, and bread, and blankets, and clothing, and yet to be utterly destitute of Bible love.
(b) The love of the Bible does not consist in never disapproving anybody’s conduct. Here is another very common delusion! Thousands pride themselves on never condemning others, or saying they are wrong, whatever they may do. They convert the precept of our Lord, “Do not judge,” into an excuse for having no unfavorable opinion at all of anybody. They pervert His prohibition of rash and censorious judgments into a prohibition of all judgment whatsoever. Your neighbor may be a drunkard, a liar, a violent man. Never mind! “It is not love,” they tell you, “to pronounce him, wrong.” You are to believe that he has a good heart at the bottom! This idea of love is, unhappily, a very common one. It is full of mischief. To throw a veil over sin, and to refuse to call things by their right names–to talk of “hearts” being good, when “lives” are flatly wrong–to shut our eyes against wickedness, and excuse their immorality–this is not Scriptural love.
(c) The love of the Bible does not consist in never disapproving anybody’s religious opinions. Here is another most serious and growing delusion. There are many who pride themselves on never pronouncing others mistaken, whatever views they may hold. Your neighbor, for example, may be a Roman Catholic, or a Mormon. But the “love” of many says that you have no right to think him wrong! If he is sincere, it is “unloving” to think unfavorably of his spiritual condition! From such love may I ever be delivered! At this rate the Apostles were wrong in going out to preach to the Gentiles! At this rate there is no use in missions! At this rate we had better close our Bibles, and shut up our churches! Everybody is right, and nobody is wrong!
Everybody is going to heaven, and nobody is going to hell!
Such love is a monstrous caricature. To say that all are equally right in their opinions, though their opinions flatly contradict one another–to say that all are equally on their way to heaven, though their doctrinal sentiments are as opposite as black and right–this is not Scriptural love. Love like this pours contempt on the Bible, and talks as if God had not given it as a written test of truth. Love like this confuses all our notions of heaven and would fill it with a discordant inharmonious rabble. True love does not think everybody is right in their doctrines. True love cries–“Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”–“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him” (2 John 1:10).
I leave the negative side of the question here. I have dwelt upon it at some length because of the days in which we live and the strange notions which abound. Let me now turn to the positive side. Having shown what love is not, let me now show what it is.
Love is that “love,” which Paul places first among those fruits brought forth in the heart of a believer. “The fruit of the Spirit is love” (Galatians 5:22). Love to God, such as Adam had before the fall, is its first feature. He that has love, desires to love God with heart, and soul and mind, and strength. Love to man is its second feature. He that has love, desires to love his neighbor as himself. This is indeed that view in which the word “love” in Scripture is more especially regarded. When I speak of a believer having “love” in his heart, I mean that he has love to both God and man. When I speak of a believer having “love” I mean more particularly that be has love to man.
The love of the Bible will show itself in a believer’s actions. It will make him ready to do kind acts to everyone within his reach–both to their bodies and souls. It will not let him be content with soft words and kind wishes. It will make him diligent in doing all that lies in his power to lessen the sorrow and increase the happiness of others. Like his Master, he will care more for ministering than for being ministered to, and will look for nothing in return. Like his Master’s great apostle he will very willingly “spend and be spent” for others, even though they repay him with hatred, and not with love. True love does not want rewards. Its work is its reward.
The love of the Bible will show itself in a believer’s “readiness to bear” evil as well as to do good. It will make him patient under provocation, forgiving when injured, meek when unjustly attacked, quiet when slandered. It will make him bear much, put up with much and look over much, submit often and deny himself often, all for the sake of peace. It will make him control his temper, and check his tongue. True love is not always asking, “What are my rights? Am I treated as I deserve?” but, “How can I best promote peace? How can I do that which is most edifying to others?”
The love of the Bible will show itself in the “general spirit and demeanor” of a believer. It will make him kind, unselfish, good-natured, good-tempered, and considerate of others. It make him gentle, friendly, and courteous, in all the daily relations of private life, thoughtful for others’ comfort, tender for others’ feelings, and more anxious to give pleasure than to receive. True love never envies others when they prosper, nor rejoices in the calamities of others when they are in trouble. At all times it will believe, and hope, and try to put to good use the actions of others. And even at the worst, it will be full of pity, mercy, and compassion.
Would we like to know where the true Pattern of love like this can be found? We have only to look at the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, as described in the Gospels, and we will see it perfectly exemplified. Love radiated forth in everything He did. His daily life was an incessant “going about” doing good.–Love radiated forth in all His manner. He was continually hated, persecuted, slandered, misrepresented. But He patiently endured it all. No angry word ever fell from His lips. No ill-temper ever appeared in His demeanor. “When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats” (1 Peter 2:23). Love radiated forth in all His spirit and deportment. The law of kindness was ever on His lips. Among weak and ignorant disciples, among sick and sorrowful petitioners for help and relief, among tax-gathers and sinners, among Pharisees and Sadducees, He was always one and the same–kind and patient to all.
And yet, let it be remembered, our blessed Master never flattered sinners, or connived at sin. He never shrunk from exposing wickedness in its true colors, or from rebuking those who would cleave to it. He never hesitated to denounce false doctrine by whomsoever it might be held, or to exhibit false practice in its true colors and the certain end to which it tends. He called things by their right names. He spoke as freely of hell and the fire that is not quenched, as of heaven and the kingdom of glory. He has left on record an everlasting proof that perfect love does not require us to approve everybody’s life or opinions, and that it is quite possible to condemn false doctrine and wicked practice, and yet to be full of love at the same time.
I have now set before my readers the true nature of Scriptural love. I have given a slight and very brief account of what it is not, and what it is. I cannot pass on without suggesting two practical thoughts, which press home on my mind with weighty force, and I hope may press home on others.
You have heard of love. Think, for a moment, how deplorably little love there is upon earth! How conspicuous is the absence of true love among Christians! I do not speak of the heathen, I now speak of Christians. What angry tempers, what passions, what selfishness, what bitter tongues, are to be found in private families! What strifes, what quarrels, what spitefulness, what malice, what revenge, what envy between neighbors and fellow Church members! What jealousies and contentions between those of varying doctrines! “Where is love?” we may well ask,–“Where is love? Where is the mind of Christ?” when we look at the spirit which reigns in the world. No wonder that Christ’s cause stands still, and sin abounds, when men’s hearts know so little of love! Surely, we can say “When the Son of Man comes, will he find love on the earth?”
Think, for another thing, what a happy world this would be if there was more love. It is the lack of love which causes half the misery there is upon earth. Sickness, and death, and poverty will not account for more than half the sorrows. The rest come from ill-temper, ill-nature, strifes, quarrels, lawsuits, malice, envy, revenge, frauds, violence, wars, and the like. It would be one great step towards doubling the happiness of mankind, and halving their sorrows, if all men and women were full of Scriptural love.”
Join us tomorrow to read the third part of this series, Where the Love of the Bible Comes.