I was pleased when my students in my doctrines class voted “love” as one of the doctrines they wanted to know more about, as the doctrine of love is one of my favorite doctrines to examine and study. It had not always occurred to me to think of “love” as a doctrinal matter. Ironically enough, my inspiration to do so came from the misuse of the term the doctrine of love from the resignation of a former pastor of mine, who faulted others (myself included, probably) for not behaving in a loving manner. Rather than be all offended and bent of shape, I resolved to find and examine the biblical difference between the doctrine of love and the doctrine of “wuv” that he felt had been broken. Let us therefore briefly contrast these two doctrines.
First, let’s talk about “wuv.” “Wuv” is the name I have for our subjective feeling of being loved. The tingly feeling you get from a kiss on the cheek, or spending time with a someone you care about, is “wuv.” We all have different ways of showing “wuv” for others, and different ways we feel “wuved” by them. We value our friends, our family members, our significant others, and our churches, by how much we feel “wuved.” We assume, wrongly, that that which is “unwuving” must be unloving. This is not necessarily the case (though abusive behaviors are both unloving and “unwuving,” which shows that our subjective sense is not entirely wrong). If we think love and “wuv” are synonymous, we will miss out on those aspects of love that are less pleasant but still loving, like rebuke and discipline. Some of us are not very good at being “wuving”–as Christians, though, we are all called to be loving.
And how and where does God define love? He defines love as being self-sacrifice, in being willing to lay down your life for others as God and Christ so loved us (see John 3:16-21), knowing that some will reject that love and truth because they prefer the works of darkness to the light. In Ephesians 5:22-33, he says that husbands and wives are supposed to love and honor each other in the same way as Christ and the Church. Ephesians 6:1-9 then says that parents and masters are to show the same outgoing concern that God does for mankind, and children and slaves are told to learn how to honor God and Christ through honoring their authorities in this life. Matthew 22:34-40 says that the two greatest commandments are loving God with all of our heart, all our mind, and all of our soul (Deuteronomy 6:5) and that the second is loving our neighbor as ourself (Leviticus 19:19). And everyone is our neighbor, even our enemies. Loving our enemies does not mean being a doormat. Loving our enemies may mean rebuking them very harshly (as I tend to do), but it means seeking their best interests–that they repent and be restored to the love and grace of God rather than being condemned, not wishing evil towards them in our hearts.
And that is why love is the greatest gift in 1 Corinthians 13. Godly love, agape love, is a terribly difficult thing. Perhaps this is why one minister I now of spent many hours giving a multi-part sermon on the subject. Love is very deep and mysterious, and if we have the love of God working within us it will impact the way we act and think about everyone. Love is terribly difficult–it may mean we lose friends because they think we are “unwuving,” it may mean that we have to give up some of our own pride because our love for truth overcomes our ego, or it may cost us our lives (in the most serious cases). To do this requires that we not merely be interested in subjective feelings, but that we have a biblical and objective definition of love as looking out for the best interests of all and not only ourselves.
Unless we have this love ourselves, it is best not to point fingers at ourselves. The Bible is very clear that we will be judged by the same standard we judge others–and if we are lacking in this love, we ought to ask God to help us in these matters before we fault other people. Love does not mean being blind to the flaws and faults of other people–but loving others in spite of them, in full knowledge of our own. It is a shame we cannot all grow to be more loving people, for we would have better relationships, better families, and better churches if we could show and recognize real love and not be so selfishly fixated on being “wuved” at all times. After all, unless we have genuine and godly love for our brothers here on earth, we cannot love God in heaven, and without that love we will not enter His kingdom.