An Exhortation to Love

By Ethan Preston, a pastoral intern of Cornerstone Reformed Baptist Church

Love in our culture has become completely self-centered. It is all about the satisfaction of one’s self. The phrase ‘I love you’ might as well be synonymous with ‘I want you.’ This is quite far from the biblical picture. Rather, love should be outward focused, seeking the good of the other. It is for this perversion of love that our culture is so confused about marriage and romance.

The homosexual says, ‘I want this one for my mate, therefore I love them.’ Oh, on the contrary, you love yourself so much that you would subject anyone else to sin and wrath to fulfill your desires. And this is surely not exclusive to same-sex relationships. Couples are divorced constantly because they are ‘no longer in love’ (which translates to ‘you are no longer fulfilling my desires’). Friendships are built on what we get out of them rather than what we can give. C.S. Lewis wrote of this ‘love’ that “the loving and the devouring [i.e. selfishly destroying] are the same thing” (Till We Have Faces).

Our Lord tells us of true love, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). If we should die for our friends because of love, should we not also die to ourselves daily for them? This love must not be something that people earn from us because of their ‘righteousness,’ but something bestowed by grace. Love pushes the beloved toward Christ-likeness and righteousness, not further from it. Any ‘love’ that does not beautify the beloved may not be called love.

As Christians, we follow the God, who is himself love (1 John 4:8). And we follow him, and we love him and others because of him. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Therefore, let us be the ones to recover and exemplify the true definition of love. Our culture tells us that love is about pleasing ourselves. Being ‘in love’ has come to justify nearly any behavior. Yet, Jesus tells us, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments… this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 14:15; 15:12). Husbands, love your wives, not for what you can get out of it, but for what you can give. Wives, love your husbands, not to fulfill your own desires, but to seek his. Parents, love your children, not to feel good about yourselves, but for the children’s good. Children, love your parents not out of obligation, but sincerely and in truth. And let us all love God above all else, and seek his glory above all else, even at the cost of our lives, dying to self, every day. “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” (Matthew 22:37-38).