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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Thursday, July 14, 2011
Learning To Love Others
You have heard, no doubt, someone say that love is an action word. The grammarian in me chafes a little at that, preferring to express this particular thought with less poetry and more precision, thus: love is a verb.

A verb, if you will recall, is an action word. So it may sound unnecessarily pedantic, or perhaps only superficially didactic to say that I prefer to use the word "verb" instead of "action word" when in fact a verb is an action word.

Yet I think the distinction will be seen as a good one to make if I explain what it is that so concerns me, that I would bother to make the distinction. When most of us think of love, we think of an emotion - and not just any emotion, but the most intimate sort of emotion we can conceive of, and in particular, an emotion that cannot be summoned by choice - it is either there, or it is not there. I can't force myself to "feel" love for someone, even if I am commanded to do so.

When I say that love is an action word, the impression many of you will get is that if you or I truly feel the emotion of love, it will cause us to do things in response to that feeling; that is, when I say that love is an action word, you may think I am saying that love provokes me to action; or said in terms of logical order: love is the cause of or motivation for the action.

The biggest problem with thinking of love in terms of experiencing an affection that provokes us to act , is that when we are commanded to love, we are unable to do so because the emotion hasn't shown up. If we expect love to fall on us and thereby empower our obedience, we are going to be pretty confused when it doesn't. We will likely conclude that we are either doing something wrong, or more likely, that God is so displeased with us (on account of the fact that we are not perfect), that He is withholding the love until we can make ourselves acceptable to Him through a greater effort on our part to love Him and obey Him.

It should be obvious, but it isn't always, so I will say it plainly: this is an immature and wrong-headed way of thinking of love.

Yet I suspect that many preachers think (and preach) that the problem isn't a wrong understanding of love, but rather a wrong understanding of the process by which God imparts the love (i.e. emotion) that He (according to this avenue of thought) commands. These will use a passage like the healing of the ten lepers (recall that they were "healed as they went") to suggest that God expects us to act like we love someone (fake it), that is, if we "prime the pump", God will reward our fakery by granting us the genuine article.

This approach, no doubt, will produce (on some level) a positive effect. The question is whether the effect is a spiritual one. Can I give you an example? I used to hate cats. My wife one day "rescued" a cat from the local animal shelter, and I was forced to live with the thing. Guess what? In a few months I started to like the little fur ball. Is this because God enlarged my heart? No. I started to like the cat because it seemed to prefer me to my wife. You know what? I still don't like cats, but I did like that one. We got rid of it however because I found out that I am allergic to cats. In the same way, if you invest yourself in another person - even someone you presently have no affection for, there is a good chance that you will eventually find in that person something that you like. There is nothing spiritual in that, any heathen, secular humanist, atheist, or person in any other world religion can generate this kind of affection - you don't need Jesus for that; and that is why I think it is a carnal, rather than a spiritual, approach to the problem of lovelessness - and worse, it is attempting to create a missing emotion - which was never the problem in the first place.

The scriptures tell me that I love myself, and that you love yourself too. Some of us are so in love with ourselves that we feel the world doesn't love us as much as we deserve - and so we are displeased with our lot, and wish we had more. This sort of narcissism may well produce a very real discontent within, but this is driven by self love, and not indicative of a lack thereof.

If we all know how to love ourselves, and we do, then we can deal biblically with the problem of failing to love others. The Apostle Paul describes our self love in Ephesians 5:29 thus, "for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church" - how is this love expressed? It is expressed in terms of nourishing and cherishing. We feed ourselves, we clothe ourselves, we make arrangements for our needs, and even for our own entertainment. This is described by Paul as on par with how Christ loves the church.

The command to love others as yourself is a command that every last one of us can understand perfectly. There is no reason for this command to remain vague or esoteric. No reason for any believer to wonder how to keep this command, or what is required to be able to keep it. Every last one of us knows how to care for his own flesh - and that same care that instructs everything we do, ought to extend beyond ourselves and into others. If I have food, and you do not, and I eat my food while you go hungry - I am not loving you. It isn't an emotion, it is a verb.

The love that I have for myself is not an emotion, it is selfishness, plain and simple. We love others when we set this self love aside, and instead direct the same care and attention to others. It isn't an emotion, it is an act of worship.

This is the main problem for most of us: everyone wants to go to avoid hell, but practically speaking, who wants to actually worship God? Can't we just go to church, and read our bibles, and attend functions and stuff? I mean, isn't singing a "church" song an act of worship? Yada, yada. How many of us really regard our obedience as worship? Let me tell you that the reason most believers obey, when they are not inclined to obey, is not out of love, but out of fear. That is, it isn't an act of worship, it is an act of self preservation.

I hope the Holy Spirit will connect the dots for you: self love = artificial, fear driven obedience; denying self = worship motivated obedience.

When we say that love casts out fear, we are saying that if you obey as a genuine act of worship, it isn't fear that God is going to damn you (or worse) for failing to do so that is driving you, rather it is the love that God calls you to perform that is driving you. Not an emotion that overwhelms you, but a realization (that the Holy Spirit grants you) that you cannot love your self and love God at the same time - you have to let go of the one in order to grasp the other. It is a lesson that every last one of us is capable of understanding, because we all love our selves. If I know how to love me (and I do), I know what God requires of me when it comes to others. I cannot love God, or anyone else, if my first and primary concern is fulfilling my own desires (loving myself).

I suppose it is sort of like rocket science, in that if you don't know the math, you will never get it no matter how simple someone tries to make it. So also, if you don't understand that "dying to self" is the same as "living for others" or that "loving God" is the same as "denying self", you simply won't get it, because you haven't understood the spiritual math. The equation is pretty simple though, so I will give it to you:

You must, as an act of worship, redirect the love with which you love yourself, at God.

Doing this is called:
- denying yourself, or
- taking up your cross, or
- living the crucified, or
- being spiritually filled, or
- not loving the world, or
- loving God with your whole heart, or
- putting to death the old man/self

To be sure, I could make that list pretty long, but you probably get the point even with such a truncated and beggarly list as this. The point is that if you want to stop floating around in your Christian life wondering what is missing, you should sit down and look at how much you love yourself, and then set your mind and heart on redirecting all that effort away from self and into serving God.

Christ showed you what love looked like when He served you. Now go and do the same in the service of God.

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posted by Daniel @ 7:40 AM  
  • At 7:09 PM, July 14, 2011, Blogger donsands said…

    Good lesson Daniel. I think it was Josh McDowell who said, "You can not love God and your neighbor, Until you love yourself."(paraphrased)
    And the wide and shallow people in the church today seem to think the same way.
    I like what Bonhoeffer said: "When Christ calls us, He bids us come and die."
    Have a great weekend bro.

    BTW, here's something I thought was fitting with your teaching (I just came upon today): http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/07/14/evangelical-pastor-in-iran-may-face-death-if-doesnt-recant/

  • At 8:42 AM, July 15, 2011, Blogger Daniel said…

    Prayed for that fellow last night before sleep overcame me.

    Thanks for sharing the url.

  • At 5:00 PM, July 18, 2011, Blogger Magpie said…

    Thank you for this. In your last few posts, I've really appreciated your clarification of what worship is - that is, what the Bible says worship is.
    Keep 'em coming!

  • At 10:27 AM, July 20, 2011, Blogger Daniel said…

    Magpie, I posted another article on loving others which, as my lovely wife describes it, provides some concrete rather than all that boring theory.

  • At 10:39 AM, July 20, 2011, Anonymous paul said…


    I enjoy reading your blog, but I'm struggling with understanding the how it works. I guess I'm one of those shallow blokes; I can not disassociate the let go and let God, or the Holy Spirit in this case, do it.

    How can we do it, whether it is loving, forgiving, worshiping, etc. if it's the Spirit in us that does these things?

  • At 11:00 AM, July 20, 2011, Blogger Daniel said…


    The whole let go and let God thing is a little misleading. I think it is more, "hold onto God, and let go of self" that gets to the heart of the matter.

    As I mention in today's post (not this one, but the one posted on Wednesday), we are inclined by default to ask, "how do I...?" rather than "How does Christ...?"

    If you give today's article a read, and still are a little fuzzy, let me know and I will drill down a bit with you.

  • At 5:07 AM, July 28, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    thanks for this. it's refreshing article on about the most important message Christ taught.

  • At 7:07 AM, July 28, 2011, Blogger Daniel said…

    Anon, no, thank you for reading it. I can be pretty verbose at times, I think most people who stumble upon my blog just end up skimming and moving on. It is good to see people reading an article, and even better if they appreciate it.

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